Tim Siebert, one half of the partnership behind Citrus & Cane, says opening the Douglas Street cocktail lounge during a pandemic had challenges, but the bar is ready to adapt to whatever comes next. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

New Victoria tropical cocktail lounge designed with COVID-19 safety in mind

Citrus & Cane opens in site of former Copper Owl after eight-month delay

While some downtown Victoria bars and restaurants are closing as a result of COVID-19, at least one vintage venue is opening its doors.

Citrus & Cane officially opened Nov. 19, roughly eight months behind schedule due to the virus. COVID-19 restrictions have forced thousands of B.C. businesses to close, including the temporary and permanent closure of several Victoria restaurants and bars. The latest restrictions prohibit alcohol sales after 10 p.m. and limit indoor capacity.

The upstairs lounge at 1900 Douglas St. was the site of thousands of live music shows as the Copper Owl before new owners Tim Siebert and partner Jessa Gildersleeve took over in January, prepared to make their tropical, Tiki bar-inspired vision a reality.

“We were kind of designing and building this room during the pandemic, right. So we kind of had a lot of that stuff in mind. It definitely changed some of our design ideas,” Siebert says. The space had a pre-COVID-19 capacity of 120 people, but opened Thursday evening with 54 seats.

“For any cocktail bar in the world, 54 seats is a great number. We’re very optimistic about it. And if we face another shutdown or new restrictions, we will adapt and evolve and do what we need to do.”

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Victoria’s service industry hit hard by pandemic layoffs

“The pandemic, weirdly, allowed us to slow down,” Siebert added. “It allowed our vision for the space to evolve more organically rather than kind of imposing our preconceived ideas on the space and we definitely, I believe, ended up with a much better product in the end.”

Now pink velvet, rattan chairs and tropical plants fill the space. Globe lights, teak and a vivacious mural of Pacific birds create a cheery mid-century esthetic in stark contrast with the grey November drizzle falling on masked passersby. The duo focused on retaining the bones of the space, including the art deco details installed in the ’70s.

“My fascination with Tiki is mostly driven around the idea of escapism, and that ability to walk into a room and forget everything that happens outside that door,” Siebert says. “For us, we kind of saw that opportunity with this room and it’s something that we really wanted to drive home.”

You won’t find any Tiki idols in Citrus & Cane – Siebert says that the venture is inspired by the tropics and bars of the past but mindful of appropriating Polynesian cultures. The focus is on fun, connection and safety.

“The biggest thing for us is we want to provide a safe space. And that’s always been paramount to us…we’ve managed to do it without putting a bunch of Plexiglas around the room. But the room is sanitary. It’s clean. It’s comfortable,” he said.

“We’re stoked to open the doors and just bring people in for a bunch of pina coladas and chill out and have some fun.”

READ ALSO: B.C. to shut down nightclubs, banquet halls; limit late-night alcohol sales at bar


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