A popular Chinese restaurant known for its weekly jazz shows and vintage decor will shutter its dining room doors later this month to prepare for the construction of a new condo development.
China House, located at 925 Eglinton Avenue West near Bathurst Street, will limit its service after July 18 to takeout and delivery until it can find a new location.
“What we have to do is keep the business alive,” owner Jonathan Wise said. “That’s why we made the compromise to move [everything] to the kitchen.”
Mr. Wise said he worked out a deal with the developers, BSAR Group of Companies, that will allow him to keep using the kitchen at the back of the building while a condo showroom is built in the dining area. But he doesn't know how long he'll be able to keep serving from his current location, since that will depend on the developers' timelines.
Established in 1958, China House is considered a mainstay in Forest Hill. Steven Petroff, who is chair of the Upper Village Business Improvement Area, said he has fond childhood memories of family dinners at the restaurant on Sunday evenings.
“A lot of people here know China House,” Mr. Petroff said. “It will really change the landscape of the street [when it goes].”
China House has changed owners several times over the years. When Mr. Wise bought the restaurant last year, he closed it for nearly two weeks for a thorough cleaning. Since then, China House has added new, healthier ingredients to the menu’s offerings and established a weekly jazz night that has brought in well-known Canadian performers, including vibraphonist Peter Appleyard and bassist Dave Young.
What Mr. Wise didn't change when he took over – apart from a little bit of polishing – was the restaurant's unique interior decor.
“It’s like stepping into a movie set,” said Ian Milne, a nearby resident who works part-time as an industrial designer. “Every surface, every wall, every texture is given into this motif – whether it’s real or imagined – of a Chinese aesthetic.”
A series of paintings in the dining area, custom made for the original owners, feature young women with umbrellas and men fighting tigers. A giant faux bonsai tree towers over the dining room tables, with yellow, orange and red Chinese lanterns hanging from its limbs, and some of the walls are covered in cream and beige striped wallpaper decorated with red velour flowers.
While Mr. Petroff said the restaurant will be missed, he added that most businesses nearby are looking forward to the influx of new customers that a condominium is likely to bring.
BSAR has not yet submitted a formal development application to the city, and the company said it can’t discuss details of the new building until its application is in. Councillor Joe Mihevc said the new building will likely be about nine stories tall and cover the area occupied by the restaurant and the public parking lot beside it. Underground public parking is also planned.
Councillor Mihevc said some residents have expressed concerns about the new condo building, and he’ll hold a community meeting once an application comes in from BSAR. But since the plans he saw don’t appear to contravene zoning rules, he said it’s likely the development will go ahead.
“Change is always something people take note of. Hopefully they recognize the difference between what they can change and can't change,” he said.