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Rising rent threatens Granville cheap eats

A restaurant that has provided cheap food to low-income residents on Vancouver’s downtown Granville Street for 30 years is facing…

By Weiying Xiong , in Business City , on October 31, 2014 Tags: , , ,

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Charlie O’Neill sees the restaurant as a home from home

A restaurant that has provided cheap food to low-income residents on Vancouver’s downtown Granville Street for 30 years is facing closure due to skyrocketing rent.

Gary Chow, whose family has run Grade A Steak & Seafood Restaurant near the corner of Granville and Davie, says his rent is about to go up substantially.

The jump, he says, will make impossible to keep serving the inexpensive meals that locals know so well.

“The new landlord, Deecorp Property Company, increased the rent next door by more than one third and told me they’ll raise mine once the old contract expires next October. There is no way I can afford it,” said Chow.

Steak for $7

Gary Chow said the food price has stayed the same in the last five years whilst the rent has increased by 10 per cent.
Chow: Food prices has stayed the same while the rent has gone up by 10 per cent

Food prices in the restaurant have managed to remain low despite there having been a steady increase in rent in the past decades. The English breakfast is priced at $5 and steaks costs $7.

“Most of our regular customers are people living in social buildings or hotels in downtown, which has no kitchen,” said Karan Li, a waitress at the restaurant.

“Many of them live on pensions or welfare. If we raise the price, they can’t afford it.”

One of those regular customers is Charlie O’Neill, a foreman for a construction company downtown.

He lives in a hotel across the street and has come to Grade A for meals every day for last 10 years.

“It offers food at a price I can afford and staff treat me like family,” said O’Neill. “People here even write a note and pay it back after receiving their pension. I can’t find a restaurant like this in downtown after it goes.”

“There were more than 50 low­-cost family restaurants on Granville and Davie Street 10 years ago, but only a few are left. Now Grade A is going as well,” said O’Neill.

Going upscale

Until recently, Granville Street near the bridge was a rundown area filled with sex shops, cheap fast food, and residential hotels. Many of the businesses catered to the low-income population housed in the single-room occupancy hotels.

Since the 1990s, Granville Street has slowly changed. Condominiums have sprouted on the streets around it and the erotic shops, theatres and unpretentious restaurants were gradually replaced by nightclubs and bars.

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A low-priced pizza shop was shut down on Granville for failing to pay the rent

For Charles Gauthier, president of Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, this is part of the inevitable change that is always happening downtown.

“Redevelopment is happening on Granville Street and we see more independent restaurants having much more difficulty surviving in downtown,” said Gauthier.

“Whoever can pay the rent will stay. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.”

Jay Lirag, leasing agent for Deecorp Property Company, declined to comment.

Back at the Grade A restaurant, Chow has resigned himself to the inevitable.

“I wish I could stay for longer but there is nothing I can do,” he said. “I will probably move the restaurant to Surrey or Coquitlam after it shuts down, where there is cheaper rent.”