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'We are going to survive this closure': Customers pitch in over $21k to save Vancouver restaurant

"This has brought us to the edge," said one of the owners earlier this month, when the ban on indoor dining in B.C. went into effect
corina-aquino-mooses-down-under-vancouver
Corina Aquino co-owns Moose's Down Under, an Australian pub, in downtown Vancouver

The pandemic has taken a toll on restaurants in Vancouver, but a long-standing haven for Aussie ex-pats in the heart of downtown's financial district has been teetering on the brink of closure.

Now the owners of Moose's Down Under are crediting a crowdfunding campaign launched by a loyal customer for saving them from having to close down.

Launched in December 2020, a GoFundMe campaign created by Danielle Carolan has recently surpassed its $20,000 goal. 

"I am hoping we can work together to help them through this unprecedented period,  as they have helped us all in the last 25 years," writes Carolan on the GoFundMe campaign page.

Carolan calls Moose's Down Under her "home away from home," which she has visited countless times in her nearly two decades working downtown. 

Known for its "Aussie hospitality" and fare like Aussie meat pies, kangaroo burgers, and Australia's beloved "parmies" (aka Chicken Parmesan), the popular watering hole and hangout also does a "1K Parmie Challenge," in which you can attempt to down a one-kilo chicken parmie and a side of fries in under 45 minutes.

But Carolan also points out that Moose's success is also in large part due to its owners, Chris Gock and Corina Aquino, and the staff.

"The minute you open the door, you are greeted with such a warm welcome, you know that the staff has one thing in mind: to make you feel welcome and bring you delicious food," explains Carolan.

But opening the door to go into Moose's - which isn't just a spot for "down under" eats, it's literally located "down under" in a lower level space on Pender at Hornby - isn't on the menu these days, as British Columbia just extended its current ban on indoor dining, aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. 

When the ban first went into effect at the end of March, Aquino says it was potentially the last straw. 

"For Moose’s...for Chris and me, this has brought us to the edge," Aquino shared on Moose's Facebook page on April 13.

Aquino had not yet shared Carolan's GoFundMe, explaining she was "uncomfortable with letting everyone know how dire our situation has become."

The restaurateur added while they had been doing all they could to stay open, offering take-out, selling gift cards, and working on new items like frozen meat pies for customers to enjoy at home, it was possible their efforts "would not be enough."

Customers rallied, taking the donation campaign over its goal.

On April 18, Aquino once again took to Facebook to express relief and gratitude for the tremendous support: "We are going to survive this closure due to the support we have received from all of you. As the saying goes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger."

Aquino added that new menu items for take-out and re-heating at home were in the works, and some forward-thinking wishes: "Keep safe and behave so we can get back to seeing your smiling faces here."