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It’s Okay: Inside East Vancouver’s Newest Watering Hole

This Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood pub popped up right when we needed it. 

by Glenn Alderson

Photos by Charles R. Nasby

Several years ago the New York Times turned their attention to East Vancouver’s “once blue-collar” Hastings Sunrise  district for a brief moment, highlighting some of the area’s trendiest hot spots. And while they might have completely missed the mark when they referred to Vancouver’s “sleek” and “squeaky-clean downtown,” they weren’t wrong to give credit to a neighbourhood that has been slowly but surely growing into itself over the last 15 years. 

It’s Okay is the newest biz on the block and they couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Located at 2481 E Hastings next to Rio Friendly Meats, co-owners Colin Canning, Michael Sanderson, and Alex Dulong have put a great deal of thought into the creation of their “neighbourhood bar” for all.

Building on inspiration from New York City watering holes from the 1970s with its dim lighting, wooden booths, and warm interior, the elegant decor (courtesy of Studio Roslyn) is forward thinking and offers a modernized take with hints of hip-hop and basketball culture. Three televisions hang on display in various corners of the room but they don’t distract from the vibe. And the one predominant piece of art you’ll notice immediately when you walk in is a blown-up vintage photo of Magic Johnson throwing a pass over the Phoenix Sun’s Dan Majerle. 

“All of us genuinely like sports,” Canning tells RANGE the day before It’s Okay opened their doors to the public. “But to us, the neighbourhood bar is about catching memories and that can be many different things; sometimes it’s a game, sometimes it’s the Raptors in the playoffs, or sometimes it’s a concert that’s getting out of the PNE. We want to be here to capture those moments.”

An elevated cocktail bar for sports and music fans alike, It’s Okay also doubles as a lunch spot during the day. Open from 11:30 am until late, the all-day menu is simple and to the point: snacks, salads and sandwiches. Chef Jeff Tang (Pizza Coming Soon) isn’t reinventing the wheel by any stretch but there aren’t any missteps either. From simple cheese and crackers or pretzels to delicious arancini balls that are just as crispy as they are gooey, it doesn’t have to be half-time to hit these snacks.

Matching its colourful green awning on the exterior, It’s Okay is also bringing a much needed and carefully curated salad selection to the Hastings Sunrise strip. Whether it’s their Arugula Fennel with sliced apples, citrus dressing, and candied nuts or the heartier Squash Farro featuring roasted kabocha squash and balsamic vinaigrette, the salad selections are healthy but will also fill you up without breaking your wallet. “One of the most important things to us was having good salads,” Canning says. “I don’t always feel like going out and eating super heavy so we have a great list of salads that we will be switching up seasonally.”

Carefully avoiding any potential misnomers around a misclassification as a “dive bar,” Canning, Sanderson, and Dulong are doing something fresh and distinguished in a community that is growing and in desperate need of more trendy but accessible places to grab a pint and a snack. The week before It’s Okay opened their doors, there were ominous flyers being circulated around the neighbourhood that posed the question, “It’s 8pm, do you know where your friends are?” Now that It’s Okay is open, the answer couldn’t be more clear.