MEET – Phil Tapping, The Gull Bar & Kitchen


Phil Tapping, The Gull Bar + Kitchen

Three guys walk into a bar: Anthony Bourdain, David Chang and Seth Rogan. They are about to talk North Vancouver and food at The Gull Bar + Kitchen – at least that’s what would happen if Phil could host his ideal dinner party with anyone, living or deceased.

Upon meeting Phil you realize two things: he’s a gracious host who immediately puts you at ease, and the world of food, artisan cocktails, and customer service consumes his life.

If you’re lucky enough to call Phil a friend, you know he’s “the good guy.” That genuine, solid, caring and fun-to-be-around friend. If you ask Phil, he’ll simply tell you he likes to put others first so it’s no surprise that he’s been in the restaurant industry for 18 years and running his own place for the last two.

If The Gull sounds familiar you might be thinking of its predecessor, The Rusty Gull. It was the classic rough-around-the-edges, sticky-beer-soaked-floor locals’ pub that, after 35+ years, needed some serious TLC. The building is owned by Phil’s parents who needed to do significant repairs and for North Vancouver guys Phil and Chef Colin Vyner (formerly of Sonora resort and Bald Face Lodge) this was their chance to open a place offering quality food and drinks made in-house with precision and care.

With mom handling the interior design, Phil, Colin and their former bartender Martin, set about giving the neighbourhood an independent local hot spot where people could hang out and feel at home. They wanted to offer the type of food and artisanal cocktails you would find downtown but with a more casual vibe. He spent years in various roles at Blue Water Café, learned about cocktails at The Diamond and in Australia, and got to know Lower Lonsdale customers working at Il Castello Pizzeria. It was after that job that he knew he wanted to run a restaurant in The Shipyards District. He works hard to create delicious cocktails with bartenders Curtis and Lobo and he’s proud to run an almost zero food waste restaurant.

When he’s not at work you’ll find him playing hockey, spending time with his wife, cooking, checking out the area’s booming brewery scene, dreaming up new cocktails and dining out in Vancouver to keep up with the food scene.

Q. What book have you read recently?
A. Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer. It’s a bestselling book from award-winning restauranteur Danny Meyer, of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Shake Shack. I read it before opening The Gull to learn how to successfully operate a restaurant.

Q. What’s on your music playlist?
A. Music is one of my passions. It depends on the moment and I tend to like older music. I have 12 playlists just for the evening crowd at the restaurant. In the daytime we play reggae and ska, soul music by Bill Withers and Sam Cook, and classic hip hop at night. Music is an important part of the ambiance so it’s important to read the mood and energy of the room and pick the music to match.

Q. What advice would you give your younger self?
A. Travel and read more. I’m glad I took a chance in 2010 by packing up and moving to Australia for six months. I worked in what was that years’ best new bar and it taught me so much about custom cocktails and cocktail culture. I would tell myself to work in different countries to learn about the trends in food and restaurants.

Q. What would you do if you won a million dollars?
A. I would keep working at The Gull but I would invest more and take more risks to make it the best possible restaurant but, first I would take a vacation. Oh and, raises for all!

Three things you might not know about Phil:

1. He is very good at hockey.
2. He used to be able to break dance.
3. He has a sensitive side and takes things to heart.

Want to meet Phil? You’ll find him at The Gull Bar + Kitchen, 175 1st Street East.