Great Lakes Tokyo burger restaurant located in the Takadanobaba neighbourhood of Shinjuku Ward, has gone entirely vegan.
The restaurant has always been known for being vegan friendly. The bar which is very close to Waseda University attracted lots of students, who liked its vegan menu, craft beer and indie rock music in the background. Its vegan Superior Burger, made with shiitake, brown rice and onions, was famous among costumers.
Owner John Penny, who is originally from California, opened the business in December 2019. The first menu featured beef and vegan burgers, fries and sides, and a limited list of craft beers and soft drinks.
When asked about why he was offering both vegan and beef burgers, he said: “We always wanted to be approachable,”
“My goal here is not to preach at anybody. I’m deeply concerned about the environment, but I feel when we were selling both it gave us a chance for someone to try something new.”
When the coronavirus pandemic started Penny closed the restaurant on weekends and switched it to a takeaway menu. But then he decided to close the venue with the epidemic ongoing.
During that time, Penny had a lot of time to think about the business’s future. He wrote in the statement: “COVID-19 has severely crippled us and countless other restaurants and bars around the world. As the virus was directly caused by animal exploitation there was simply no way we could move forward contributing to something that nearly killed our business, has literally killed hundreds of thousands of people, and, of course, trillions of animals each year.”
“There was no way that I could, in good conscience, reopen after hundreds of thousands of people have died from this thing,” he said. “Millions of people have been affected. How can I sleep at night if I’m contributing to that cause?”
When Great Lakes reopened in June, it was a 100 per cent vegan restaurant.
Penny says the community warmly welcomed the idea despite the gloomy pandemic forecast. The demand for the new vegan offerings was so high that the menu sold out and had to close early.
“It was just shocking. So I’m delighted with the response,” he said.
“The business is definitely in danger, and we might not survive the summer, to be frank. I was convinced that we would have no one walking through the door,” he added.
He is still not sure what the future holds, but he wants to navigate whatever comes in a good way.
“This is a very small shop. My impact is very minimal, but it’s gonna take all of us to be better,” he explained.