Monday, June 24, 2024

It’s soup season in Esquimalt: New cafe opens up shop in former bingo hall


Exciting news, Esquimalt! 

Soupa Cafe is moving into the former  bingo hall on Esquimalt Road after being vacant for over a year and a half.

The building is scheduled to be torn down in the future but Avi Lugassy, co-owner of Soupa Cafe, didn’t want the space to go to waste. 

Following their grand opening on Thursday, the old bingo hall is now Soupa Cafe’s latest location.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity to be on the main road in a community we want to be in,” Lugassy told Victoria Buzz. 

Soupa Cafe signed a lease to be in that space until December 2023 at the very least. After that time, they will move to a month-to-month lease until the building is torn down. 

The building is about 5,000 square feet, leaving lots of room for the cafe’s front of house and a massive kitchen on the back end. 

“The very front which is about 1,000 square feet, that’s the cafe and we can produce massive volumes of soup out of the back,” said Lugassy. 

The back end is used as a commissary kitchen which allows other local companies and pop-ups without a commercial kitchen of their own to rent the space and use the facilities. 

Lugassy said Casa Nova Catering, among others use the kitchen space in the back of house.

The new space had a soft-opening on Wednesday, where Lugassy just made a post on the Esquimalt Community Connection Facebook page saying they’d be open. The response was overwhelming. 

“A few people came in straight away. They posted a few images. More people came in and posted a few images and it just went off the hook,” Lugassy told Victoria Buzz. 

Following the soft opening, Lugassy responded to some of the people’s posts on the Esquimalt Facebook page.

“Thanking you all for coming in for an amazing soft opening today. Incredible way to open our

doors with droves of soup-port from our incredible community,” exclaimed Lugassy. 

“Still ironing out a few wrinkles but the grand opening will be announced soon. In the interim, we promise to try not to ‘stir the pot too much.’” 

Little did his costumes know, the grand opening would be the very next day. 

The construction of the massive kitchen and cafe storefront took about five months, and they certainly needed the space. Soupa Cafe now makes soup for 22 other businesses, including Country Grocer, Urban Grocer and Red Barn.

Lugassy and his partner are the owners of Soupa Cafe and have been steering the ship since 2016 when they bought out a local Victoria business that was for sale called Souped Up.

“It had been there already, for like 15 years. It was declining I guess,” Lugassy said. “We rebranded and made it really modern.”

“We added lots of soup options. Gluten-free options, dairy-free options and vegan options.” 

Pretty soon after buying the business, growth was already on their minds. 

“We said right from the beginning, the plan would be to grow into many stores.” 

Looking to the future, when the new space eventually has to be torn down, their plan is to stay in Esquimalt. Furthermore, Lugassy and his partner want to expand into Langford when the opportunity arises. 

Now that the cafe is up and running, Lugassy will be able to focus on the annual charity drive he runs called, ‘The Gift of Music,’ in which he collects unused guitars and other instruments from Victorians and donates them to families who cannot afford to buy instruments for their children. 

Curtis Blandy

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