New restaurant opens in Nanaimo despite COVID-19

New restaurant opens in Nanaimo despite COVID-19
WatchThe owner of a new Nanaimo restaurant says he's optimistic despite the timing not being ideal

Opening a restaurant can be a challenge at the best of times, but imagine opening one during a pandemic.

That’s what a Victoria businessman is doing in Nanaimo this week.

There’s been a healthy line-up of people waiting to try out Nanaimo’s newest eatery since it opened. It’s a level of interest you might not expect during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Feel like everyone’s bored of the places that are already here so I mean why not open a new place? It might not be the best of time to open a new one but I mean they seem pretty busy so far,” said Harry Tassell, while in line waiting to try Big Wheel Burger.

Since the first Big Wheel Burger restaurant opened nearly a decade ago, they’ve become a popular brand in Victoria.

Plans for one in Nanaimo have been in the works for the past year and a half.

It was supposed to open March 1, but first construction and then the opening were delayed following the arrival of COVID-19. Nearly seven weeks later, it’s finally happened.

“We had our first day yesterday. It was a smashing success,” said Kalen McNeil, the owner. “We actually had to turn off our take out app and pick up app because of the response, so I think the decision to open was the correct one in hindsight.”

Since he was young, McNeil’s nickname has been Big Wheel McNeil and he enjoys playing poker. He’s earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournaments. He knows his odds, and despite the pandemic, he’s betting the restaurant will fill up once customers are allowed inside.

“[Like poker] You have to make very quick decisions on limited information so I’m always weighing the odds and we’re definitely going to be a full house and probably a straight flush,” said McNeil.

McNeil says he probably would have put the brakes on his plans a little bit had he known the pandemic was coming but he believes his team will be able to return to decent revenues and navigate through it all one burger and fry at a time.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!