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Oak Bay Marina restaurant closing in March

What will happen to high-profile waterfront space is uncertain.

After half a century of ­operation, the Oak Bay Marina’s dining room is closing on March 5.

“It is a sad day. The ­restaurant’s been an institution here in Oak Bay and in Greater Victoria,” Brook Castelsky, chief executive of the Oak Bay Marine Group, said Monday.

The closing does not necessarily mean that the site’s days as a restaurant are over. Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said he assumes his municipality will seek another restaurant to fill the 5,900-square-foot space, but it is too soon to be certain.

The municipality owns the Beach Drive buildings and the restaurant was on a month-to-month lease with the Marine Group.

Murdoch expects that council will discuss possible next steps in an in-camera meeting. Subjects such as disposition of land are discussed out of the public eye. “It is a very well-loved and popular spot so we do want to find the right partner for it.”

The municipality would not want to let the space sit empty for a long time, Murdoch said.

Similar to other restaurants and businesses in Greater Victoria and elsewhere, the Marina Restaurant has been facing labour shortages, supply issues and inflation, said Castelsky.

“We are not immune to these challenges,” he said.

As well, “I think consumer tastes are shifting away from more formal dining to a more casual atmosphere. That’s ­probably another part of it.

“But ultimately it is not a decision we wanted to make.”

Patrons of the restaurant, in an eye-catching building, have been drawn to views of the marina and waterfront through windows lining the dining room. “Many people have celebrated a number of special occasions there,” Castelsky said.

The restaurant opened in the 1970s. It was taken over and ­renovated by the Oak Bay Marine Group in 1994.

The Marina Dockside Eatery Cafe in the building’s lower level will remain open.

It was a difficult decision to close the restaurant, which has employed 30 staff, both full- and part-time, Castelsky said. Some have more than 20 years’ experience with the restaurant.

The company has approached local hotels and restaurants and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce to help staff find jobs elsewhere, he said.

He is optimistic staff will be hired quickly given the strong demand for experienced workers.

The 135-seat dining room is 3,500 square feet. The entire restaurant area including kitchen and storage space is 5,900 square feet.

Any remaining food after closing will be donated to the Mustard Seed Food Bank.

Oak Bay decided last year to extend Marine Group’s lease for five years after the municipality failed to reach agreement on a potential development plan for the site.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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