I went to the Seven Seas Seafood Restaurant once. Unlike most people though, I didn’t go to the long gone North Vancouver landmark to enjoy the food or the view. No, I was there one late evening in 2000 to get a beer at last call. Therefore, I have one memory (albeit slightly foggy) of this classic Lower Lonsdale haunt.
The Seven Seas Restaurant was actually a floating dining palace occupying the retired No. 5 North Vancouver Ferry. It was permanently moored at the foot of Lonsdale directly East of the Cates Tugboat dock, at nearly the exact location where it used to load and unload thousands of passengers daily. Built in 1941, the No. 5 was the last of the North Vancouver ferries built to transport commuters, predominantly workers to and from the shipyards.
When I was there just before closing time on a Saturday night fifteen years ago, I recall the size of the restaurant struck me. There were narrow corridors and shorter than normal ceilings, as one would expect from an old sea vessel. It was slightly before midnight after returning to the North Shore via Seabus and my friend and I were still thirsty. Fifteen years ago, Lower Lonsdale didn’t have the vibrant pub scene it does now, so The Seven Seas it was.
The No. 5 operated until ferry service was discontinued in 1958, the following year it was sold and converted into a restaurant. With support from his father, 20 year-old Diamond Almas had the restaurant operational by 1959. Seven Seas Seafood became a destination for its top-notch food and customer service. At its peak in the 1970’s Almas employed 50 people and served 350 patrons a day. By the late 1990’s Almas was even living aboard the ship in a large, finely appointed cabin at the stern of the ship.
However, issues arouse in the late 1990’s when North Vancouver city council became concerned about the old ferry’s seaworthiness. Council insisted Almas post a $150,000 insurance bond to cover clean up in case the boat sank. Almas disputed the worries about the ship and refused to pay the bond, prompting lengthy court battles. He eventually stopped paying moorage fees and incurred over $100,000 in fees and back taxes. Finally, in 2001, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered that the ship be sold. In 2002 the old No.5 Ferry was removed and broken apart for scrap.
Sadly, when the boat was put in dry-dock to be dismantled, the hull was determined to in fine shape after all. However, it was far to late at this point. The distinctive, 15 metre-long neon sign that once drew myself and countless others to the place is about the only thing that remains of the old No.5. It is currently in storage at the North Vancouver Works Yard, hopefully to be resurrected in the future.