“During the two-plus months we were paying rent and not open, we would come down to the new space at 8 in the morning and work on the new business until we went off to work as servers at 5pm,” Hannay says. “We had a very meager renovation budget, so there was a ton of elbow grease involved and some much-needed free labor from friends.”
Thankfully, when they opened the restaurant (then named simply Brix), serving modern Canadian cuisine, it proved a hit. “A lot of people were watching us because we were a couple of waiters trying to make good and it wasn’t something that was seen much in the city,” Hannay says. Since, though, other former front-of-house staff have seen similar success, such as Robbie Kane, one-time Chambar server turned owner of popular Vancouver brunch spot Café Medina.
In 2005, in the wake of Brix’s success, Hannay and Mercer opened a nearby cocktail lounge called George. With the help of a London mixologist, they offered the first artisanal, hand-muddled drinks seen in Vancouver. But by 2015, as events and wedding bookings grew, they decided to close George, and renovate and rebrand Brix as the new Brix & Mortar.
The current spot combines a menu of Canadian fare with French, Italian, and Asian influences alongside fine wine and creative cocktails. Though the design has changed (the space now features two floors and two patios), they still retain regular customers from Brix’s early days. “They’re coming along on the ride with us,” Hannay says of their loyal local clientele.
Perhaps that’s because over 18 years, Brix’s owners have truly become part of the neighborhood. Mercer, who also lives in Yaletown with his two young sons, credits the restaurant’s longevity to their early support for the area and their long-term commitment to the business.
“We were lucky enough to be here at the point when this community grew and I think we’re very much a grassroots part of it,” he says. “To this day, there isn’t a day when there isn’t an owner in the building; I think we’re probably one of the few restaurants in this area that can say that.”