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The New West café that moonlights as a cocktail bar

New Westminster’s Old Crow Coffee Co. morphs into a chic cocktail lounge called Moodswing every Friday and Saturday at the stroke of 5 pm. The Record talks to the owners about the shapeshifting Front Street noshery.

During the daytime, Old Crow Coffee Co. is like any other cafe — you hear the clink of spoons on cutlery, a peppy number plays in the background, and the smell of ground coffee hangs thick in the air. 

By the end of the week, though, the cafe has quite a mood swing and turns into a dimly-lit bar serving cocktails named Daddy Issues and Pssy Portal (their most popular drinks) among others. 

Whose ingenious idea was it to introduce this nocturnal transformation?

“Old Crow alumni really. The Moodswing team is almost entirely composed of some of Old Crow’s original staff members who over the years chatted with the community about how New West needed something like Moodswing. So here we are,” said Moodswing's co-owners Steph Vu and Li.

Moodswing is a cooperative — it’s co-owned and run by a small team that includes Vu, Li, Ricky Castanedo, Daria Mukhovina, and Tash Hefford.

Yoyoing from one business to another was an idea they had played around with even before launching Moodswing. Old Crow Cafe had hosted a pop-up pasta and cocktail bar called Incantations in the pre-pandemic days.

All that they learnt running the pop-up helped them streamline the transition when it came to the Moodswing bar. 

How does the New West cafe transform into a cocktail bar?

Setting up a business that switches from one vibe to another did require some work. As a first step, the team built new booth seating with marble tabletops. This, according to Li and Vu, "marries both businesses and fits an esthetic that transforms as the sun sets.”  

“Also, when Moodswing was opening, we didn’t have any capital. So, a lot of decisions had to be very low-fi and DIY, but still feel like upgrades or playfully-sophisticated attempts at ensuring the experience felt different than the daytime,” they added.

When it came to the menu, the cafe’s pastries, toasts and sandwiches gave way to the bar’s plant-based Italian and Mexican dishes, designed by chefs Tash Hefford and Ricky Castanedo. 

“The plant world offers so many replacements if you just take the time to understand what flavours go into making a dish scrumptious,” said Castanedo, who avoids using the easy alternatives to meat, like tofu and plant-based proteins. “I want to show everyone that vegetables alone are a force to be reckoned with.”

The vegetable-forward menu can be washed down with Moodswing’s curated collection of craft beer and natural wines, and their unique cocktails, of course.

The concept seems to have taken off as Moodswing already has a handful of regulars. But, as the team wrote in an email, “People are still learning about us and finding out that we’re even happening, but the weekends trend busier and more fun every week.” 

If you want to join the fun, book a table on Moodswing’s website. The cocktail lounge is open between 5 and 11 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, at 655 Front St. — the home of Old Crow Coffee Co.