Great Lakes Tokyo—an American-style burger shop in Japan—is now vegan due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
John Penny, the restaurant’s founder, made the announcement on Facebook. “With the health and prosperity of our customers and planet in mind, we are making one major change to how we operate: Great Lakes is now 100 percent vegan,” he wrote.
Penny opened the burger joint in December 2019. Just as he was preparing to expand the restaurant’s offerings and host on-site events, the coronavirus pandemic hit. He was forced to close the eatery due to lockdown measures.
But Penny says the switch to an all-vegan menu occurred after he made the connection between zoonotic diseases like the coronavirus and factory farming.
“COVID-19 was caused by the exploitation of animals. I can’t see any other way to move forward given the devastation around the world,” he wrote.
Great Lakes Tokyo’s menu previously featured a limited menu including beef and vegan burgers. It also offered fries, a variety of sides, craft beers, and soft drinks. But moving forward, the menu will be completely plant-based.
“Resources are limited so our menus still have photos of beef and cheese for the time being. We are operating with minimal staff and adapting as we go to this ever-changing new reality. We thank you for your understanding during this adjustment period,” Penny added.
Great Lakes Tokyo Goes Vegan
Great Lakes Tokyo is nestled in the Takadanobaba neighborhood of Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Penny, who is originally from California, modeled the eatery after burger shops he visited near Lake Michigan when he was a kid.
He said his goal in opening the burger joint was to “provide delicious food in a casual and friendly space that is welcoming to all people.” He wanted Great Lakes to be a “hub [for] inclusivity and shared experiences.”
Penny believes removing animal products from the menu will help him to further this mission.
“Our mission hasn’t changed at all and neither has our food. If anything, I feel this makes us more inclusive,” he wrote.
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