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Persian restaurant causes a stink

By Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra The city of West Vancouver passed a bylaw in 2005 that prohibits businesses from releasing odours…

By Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra , in City , on December 5, 2007

By Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra

The Arian RestaurantThe city of West Vancouver passed a bylaw in 2005 that prohibits businesses from releasing odours that might disturb local residents.

The bylaw stems from a controversy around Persian cooking at the Arian restaurant.

Ali Bakhtiari would cook in his restaurant on Marine Drive and the odour from the garlic-flavoured food would waft from the exhaust fan on top of the restaurant directly to the bedrooms of the homes on the upper level of the combined commercial and residential property, called the Bellevue Landing.

The residents complained and the city came investigating with the North Shore health officials.

Chris Cottrill, a supervisor with bylaw services department with the city was the investigating officer in this case.

He said when he came investigating, he didn’t find it smelly, because he is “fond of garlic.”

“The more pressing issue was the noise of the exhaust fan on the roof,” said Cottrill.

Bakhtiari has since sold the restaurant. It is still called Arian and sells Iranian food, but is now run by Mehnaaz Shojae.

Shojae has owned the restaurant for the last 15 months and says she hasn’t had any complaints. She doesn’t know why Bakhtiari sold the restaurant. According to her, Bakhtiari has moved to Los Angeles.

At the time of the controversy, the media covered the story extensively.

Bakhtiari gave interviews to most media outlets and according to an archived CBC report, he said “he’s being singled out”.

The report also quoted Bakhtiari from an interview to a newspaper reporter where he called the complaints “unjust and racist”.

The Bylaw
The city bylaw says that a person who owns or operates a business must not allow a noticeable odour to escape from its premises that “disturbs or is likely to disturb, the enjoyment, comfort or convenience of an individual in the residential premises”. This includes odours coming from garbage.

The bylaw also covers noise. It says the owner or operator of a business mustn’t allow “a noise to emanate from the premises”. It could be through a ventilation fan or otherwise, that could disturb or is likely to disturb people in residential premises.Egon Andre points to the ventilation fan from his apartment hallway

The odour
“The bedrooms face the street,” said Egon Andre, a resident of the Bellevue Landing for the last 11 years.

He said the previous owner of the Arian restaurant would cook at night and the smell would bother the residents.

“People couldn’t sleep, they couldn’t leave their window open,” said Andre. He said they have never had any problems with other businesses in the building.

“[The residents] were happy when the bylaw was passed,” he added.

But for some West Vancouverites, the odour is not a problem.

“It’s not an issue with me,” said Robert Smith, who lives a bit up the hill away from the restaurant.

The ventilation fan (extreme left) on top of the restaurant as seen from the apartment hallway“In West Vancouver, people are very particular about their lifestyle,” said 61-year-old Smith, who points out that odour from a restaurant “really isn’t much of a factor”.

Cottrill said it isn’t easy to enforce the bylaw. The odour or noise disturbance must occur over the course of 10 or more days. Residents need to submit their complaints in writing.

The complaint has to come from a minimum of two residents, who live within 100 metres of the business but do not live in the same residential unit.

The bylaw can only be enforced after two city officials confirm that the smell or noise could disturb residents.

Equal for all
Cottrill said the bylaw is enforced equally for all businesses.

He said the bylaw was not brought about because the owner was of a certain race and they were making a certain type of food. “The main complaint was that there was a certain type of odour,” he said.

Smith said he is not surprised that such a bylaw exists in the city. “Some of these things are a little far fetched,” he says.

Related: Fact file: Persian cuisine