Tommy O’s Lounge
Tommy Owens, owner
801 Washington St., Vancouver
Longtime downtown restaurateur Tommy Owens, owner of Tommy O’s Pacific Rim Bistro, had been eyeing the 1,400-square-foot space next door to his corner eatery since he moved in five years ago.
At first, he envisioned a banquet room there. That vision evolved into a full-service bar because of the potential customerbase, he said.
He saw a need for a unique space for business breakfast and lunch meetings that isn’t a hotel, and beverage sales at the restaurant indicated that there was a market for cocktails, Owens said.
He was finally able to lease it at the beginning of the year – nearly doubling his existing space – and the end result is an airy, laid-back atmosphere with a hint of the tropics.
“It’s casual and comfortable but upper end,” he said. “I wanted a place for professionals to have their own space.”
The lounge is connected to the restaurant, but also has its own entrance.
“We popped open that door and the aloha spilled over,” Owens said.
Tommy O’s Lounge opened in May, with a grand opening celebration on June 8.
It seats as many as 40 people and opens at 4 p.m., serving as restaurant overflow or a private meeting space until then.
Cocktails range from the standard – Mai Tais and Mojitos – to the inspired: Monkey La La (vanilla vodka, Kahlua and coconut cream), mango margaritas, pomegranate martinis and the $18 Lapu Lapu – “Sixty ounces of liquid aloha,” according to the menu.
Cocktails cost upwards of $7, and food is available – in abundance.
Owens said he conducted an extensive research and development tour when designing the menu: “It was a lot of bellying up at different bars,” he said, laughing.
He visited Manhattan and, of course, Hawaii, and his son brought back ideas from trips to Fiji, Costa Rica and Cuba.
With financing from Bay Bank, Owens invested $100,000 into the lounge. He has a 10-year lease on the space and hopes one day to own the building.
Although the opening has been remarkably smooth, Owens said predicting business and staffing has been a challenge. He hired a bartender, cocktail waitress and his entire staff is now up to 25 people.
Prior to opening Tommy O’s 14 years ago, Owens ran the now-extinct Chart House Restaurant on the river for several years.
“Vancouver was not a destination of any kind as far as eating or nightlife,” he said. “I feel strong that we’re changing that.”