The Seven Seas Restaurant

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Photo courtesy North Vancouver Museum & Archives 15806, ca.1970s
Photo courtesy North Vancouver Museum & Archives 15806, ca.1970s

Do you remember the Seven Seas Restaurant? It was moored at the foot of Lonsdale from 1959 to 2002. The restaurant had a crazy 48-foot neon sign easily visible from East Vancouver, and it was the place where locals had their first drink, got engaged, and ate at the city’s biggest seafood buffet.

Before it was a restaurant, the Seven Seas was Ferry No. 5—the last of the North Vancouver ferries. No. 5 was built in 1941 to carry up to 600 people and 30 vehicles across Burrard Inlet. During the war, the ferries ran day and night, bringing thousands of shipyard workers to Burrard Dry Dock and North Vancouver Ship Repairs.

Ferry No. 5 in 1958. Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives 447.7232.1
Ferry No. 5 in 1958. Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives 447.7232.1

After the war, people preferred to drive, and ridership went into steady decline. Ferry No. 5 made its final run across the Inlet on August 30, 1958, lasting eleven years longer than the streetcars that once carried the passengers up Lonsdale.

Jeanne Nielsen remembers taking the ferry from Vancouver with her grandmother when she was nine years old. “It was really an adventure I just loved going, it was a big deal,” she says.

When the ferry service ended, the City of North Vancouver sold No. 5 to restauranteur Harry Almas who owned the King Neptune Seafood Restaurant in New Westminster. Almas paid $12,000 which included a five-year lease for the waterfront lot. He then spent ten times the purchase price converting the car deck into two dining rooms and a kitchen. Almas kept the two wheelhouses on the upper deck and the ship’s funnel.

When Ferry No. 5 became the Seven Seas Restaurant, Jeanne went there with her friends. “We used to think it was fantastic. I remember us going there in our late teens and early 20s and having this incredible seafood buffet—they even had frog legs,” she says. “I thought that it was a shame when they closed it down.”

Ferry Line-up on Lonsdale Avenue i 1931. Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives Br P75.2
Ferry Line-up on Lonsdale Avenue in 1931. Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives Br P75.2

The ship’s heritage significance was recognized on the City of North Vancouver’s Heritage Inventory in 1994. But the vessel was aging, and the cost of repairs became a court battle between the Almas family and the City. It ended in federal court in 2001. The following year the restaurant was dismantled, towed to Vancouver Pile Driving at the foot of Brooksbank Avenue, and demolished.

The neon sign, it seems, was lost to history.

Ferry terminal in North Vancouver, 1910. Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives
Ferry terminal in North Vancouver, 1910. Photo courtesy Vancouver Archives

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

 

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7 comments

  1. In 1981 my wife and I went to the Seven Seas for our only visit to that restaurant. We both love seafood and were looking forward to the evening out. The buffet at the time was about $17 per person. The only thing that was different that night was my wife was about 6 months pregnant. We were there for about 1/2 hour before the motion of the boat made my wife feel queasy. We paid our bill and went home.
    We still laugh about the evening we paid $40 for a slice of watermelon.

  2. As a teen, Myself and friends would go there on dates. It impressed the girls to be in North Van,on a boat, eating exotic seafoods like,Mahi Mahi, Swordfish,and of course,Frogs legs.Whenever the seabus would go by, the boat would move, and, depending on the amount of movement,it was either a nice addition to the meal, or an abrupt trip to the restroom.
    There was a server there, very polite,older fellow that was very good at his job. Always on point, always treated you like a gentleman, and made the experience even better.
    Once,I ordered a bottle of wine. He uncorked it, and handed me the cork.
    I took the cork, looked at it, rolled it in my fingers, and looked up at him,unsure of the point of this transaction. He looked at me, wrinkled his nose in a sniffing gesture. I sniffed it, he winked, I nodded, and the date was impressed. Too bad it was never realized for the gem that it truly was.

  3. I really enjoy your posts Eve….Along with the wonderful first hand stories of how these landmarks impacted daily lives along the way. … in the comments section. I really value the input from your “well seasoned” 😉 readers. I received a little jar of bits and bobs from my grandmother’s things and recently cleaned it out to find a old meat ration token along with an unused BC Electric streetcar ticket. Wish I could have been transported back in time so I could use them on a shopping jaunt with my grandma.

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