Photograph of the outdoor shop sign for The Rich Uncle Tavern (now closed), depicting a dapper owl in a top hat smoking a pipe.


The Rich Uncle Tavern, a fixture of the downtown Kitchener culinary scene since 2018, closed its doors indefinitely on Apr. 27, 2024. The tavern replaced the Berlin, a venture by the same owners that occupied 45 King St. W. from 2015 to 2018.   

In a post on their Instagram account on Friday, Apr. 26, 2024, the Ignite Group of Brands expressed their gratitude to the community that supported the tavern over the years.   

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the KW community, our team members, local suppliers, and industry partners. You all contributed to our successes throughout the years,” the post stated.   

Ryan Llyod-Craig, co-owner of Ignite Group of Brands, said restaurants suffered during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure was decided to coincide with the end of the financial year.   

“The closure of the business was a decision we made earlier this week that we had to act on to coincide with our year-end,” he said.   

Ultimately, the decision to close the tavern was based on finances and timing.   

“All of downtown Kitchener has struggled since [COVID-19]…There’s not a lot of traffic down there anymore…We can’t survive having two busy days a week,” he said.  

Lloyd-Craig said they tried strategies such as removing lunch service and adjusting business hours to account for changes in business and demographic after COVID-19.   

At one point, the Rich Uncle Tavern was a single-story restaurant with event space above. But the loss of business with people working from home during COVID-19 was a hard hit.   

“We can’t make the business work in Kitchener…we’re not the only ones. I mean, there’s many businesses downtown Kitchener that have closed their doors recently,” Lloyd-Craig said.  

He said it was a better decision for the business to focus more on other restaurants under the Ignite Group of Brands umbrella—these are the Graffiti Market in Kitchener and the Crowsfoot Smokehaus in Conestogo.  

“We have to stop the bleeding at some point and refocus our dollars on our other businesses that are doing well and this just happened to coincide with our year end. And our advisors advised us it was time to close it down now,” he said.  

With the new Conestoga College campus in downtown Kitchener and the ever-changing demographics of the city, Lloyd-Craig said it was difficult to maintain a restaurant serving premium quality food in the area.   

“I would say one thing that changed for the better is the college coming to downtown Kitchener, but then you’ve got a demographic that’s looking for something unique or cheap,” he said. “We try to use as much of a premium product as possible. And right now, that’s just not what people are looking for in DTK.”  

The Instagram post went up before all staff were informed. One former staff member commented their disappointment at finding out the news from social media and claimed they had no communication about the closure until then.   

“It’s unfortunate that THIS is how your own staff members are hearing about this closure and subsequent loss of our jobs. On Instagram?,” the former staff member said.   

“I have also confirmed that I am not the only staff member who wasn’t notified,” the former staff member said in a reply to their original comment. “Your attempts must not have been very thorough at all.”   

Lloyd-Craig apologized for the error in posting earlier than intended and said employees will receive pay in lieu of notice. He said the culinary staff have been absorbed into the Graffiti Market and others were also offered positions at the company’s other restaurants.

The building at 45 King St. W. has been up for sale since February 2024, however, there is no sale to date.  

“…[U]nfortunately, [the sale] just hasn’t materialized in the time that we needed for it to happen. So, this version of the Rich Uncle unfortunately, we had to close,” Lloyd-Craig said.