On my way to work last week I passed a pawn shop on Dewdney Avenue and something caught my eye:
Though I had never graced its seats, I instantly knew that this used to be the site of the New Utopia Cafe owned and operated by Roger Ing.
The New Utopia was not part of my childhood or even my teenage years, but I do remember hearing about it at the age of 14, 3 years after it closed, and thinking it sounded really great.
In 1998, the Mackenzie Art Gallery featured a retrospective of Roger Ing’s work and screened a short documentary about him entitled “Roger Ing’s Utopia“. I remember my mom helping me to track down one of his Mona Lisa t-shirts. I really dug his style… alas that t-shirt is currently nowhere to be found.
My re-discovery of the New Utopia Cafe last week was actually quite timely. This Thursday, it will be 2 years since Roger Ing passed away. I hope to share more in a few days, but for now, here is a before and after of the New Utopia Cafe. Although it goes without saying, I can’t stress enough how depressing it is that a place which brought people together and cultivated creativity in the city has been replaced by a pawn shop.