Butchers Block BBQ will be closed two days a week now; the owners blame high housing costs

A local eatery is cutting back the number of days it’s open, and the owners say it’s because they don’t have enough staff thanks to rising housing costs in the region.

Butchers Block BBQ, a fixture in the Heights’ restaurant scene, has announced it will be closed on Sundays starting this week.

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“It’s not our fault. We’d like to be open as much as possible,” said Mary Levesque, co-owner of Butchers Block BBQ.

Recently, finding reliable staff to work at the restaurant has been a challenge, she said.

“I think it’s the rent,” Levesque said.

“They can’t afford the rent in Vancouver and they’re having to move out farther and farther and farther. … For them to migrate all the way into Vancouver, it has to be really worth their time and money, and we can’t afford that.”

Levesque and her husband Calvin opened the restaurant as Burgers, Etc. thirteen years ago. In 2016, they rebranded it as Butchers Block BBQ to let people know they also served barbecue items, including ribs, beef brisket and pulled pork.

“That brought in a flood of people that didn’t realize we were a barbecue place,” Levesque told the NOW. “Our restaurant was just inundated. We didn’t have the space to be able to do both.”

The Levesques decided, in the best interest of the restaurant, to take the burgers off the menu and focus on the barbecue items.

At the time, they had about 10 employees, including line cooks, servers and bussers, and they were open Tuesday to Sunday. Three years later, they’re down to six staff with only two working full time.

In the early days of the restaurant, help wanted ads would return an abundance of interested servers and cooks, but now they’re lucky if they get one or two candidates applying, Levesque said.

But in the past few years, Butchers Block BBQ has had staff who have come for a day or two and then never returned. Even some prospective employees have bailed on interviews.

“I think there’s such a demand for workers that they can kind of pick and choose what they want,” Levesque added.

With a limited employee roster, the couple has been working extra hours to fill in the gaps. It’s especially tiresome when employees call in sick and Levesque and Calvin have to work double shifts to keep the restaurant open.

“When you think you have the day off, then you don’t, it’s taxing on your body,” Levesque said.

When the Sunday server gave her two weeks’ notice, the couple decided the best thing to do would be to close on Sundays altogether.

In an effort to try and recoup some of the revenue they’re going to lose by closing two days a week, Butchers Block BBQ will now be serving burgers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They’ve also signed on with DoorDash, an online food-delivery service, in addition to Skip the Dishes.

“We’re working way too hard, harder than we want to,” Levesque said. “We really, really want to have a balance of life and work, and right now it’s just all work, work, work, work, work.”

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