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'Peak' Vancouver? Eviction sparks shaming of Vancouver eatery whose owner soon to be without a home too

Dispute pits small Twin Peaks-themed vegetarian restaurant against tenants above—both vying for fewer affordable spaces in the city

Vancouver restaurant The Black Lodge at 317 East Broadway Ave. sits under two rental suites upstairs

David P. Ball / /Metro

Vancouver restaurant The Black Lodge at 317 East Broadway Ave. sits under two rental suites upstairs

You could call it ‘peak’ Vancouver. Or perhaps an unfortunate but inevitable spat as affordable spaces dwindle for renters and storefronts here.

Last week, the anonymous author of a widely shared Reddit post — one of four Mount Pleasant renters issued eviction notices by a Twin Peaks TV-show themed restaurant that moved in downstairs — billed it as “a tale from the current mess that is renting in Vancouver.”

And indeed, that certainly seems to be the case after the tale drew 433 comments and was spread via Facebook, sparking a boycott campaign, angry messages to the Black Lodge’s owner, and negative reviews.

On Feb. 26, Reddit user “kingsgate-loiterer” posted an entry titled: “Black Lodge restaurant are SLUM LORDS! DO NOT SUPPORT THEM!”

One week later, the original Reddit post has since been deleted, but its 433 comments remain. It listed a litany of allegations against the Black Lodge’s second location, opened last October at 317 East Broadway Ave.: persistently loud late-night music, shouting and smokers outside at 2 a.m., and low rents increased by the maximum amount allowed.

“These are young people, also renters by their own admission, who are blatantly trying to f--- over their peers in order to get a leg up,” the Reddit author alleged. “… This rental market really brings out the worst in people … The irony of course is that they’re trying to get out of that by visiting that insecurity on others.”

The arrangement at the once-home of Rhizome and Heartwood cafes has long been unorthodox: the business renting its shopfront is responsible for collecting rents upstairs and paying for maintenance of two upstairs suites, currently home to four tenants.

“We signed our lease for the building in May,” Black Lodge owner Claire Wyrostok’s told Metro in an interview. “The deal with the building owner was that he'd continue to be landlord for the tenants until we were operational … He served the tenants upstairs notice that we would become their landlords officially Nov. 1.”

It was, the Reddit author agreed, “an unusual situation in the building,” but “having never heard of such a thing, we didn’t think much of it.”

To complicate the tale further, however, Metro has learned both the restaurant itself and its owner are soon to be without a home themselves. The Black Lodge’s current Kingsway Avenue location, marking five years there this month, is slated for demolition and redevelopment; separately, Wyrostok’s own home is being sold by her landlord and she must move out.

David P. Ball/Metro

After months of repeated noise complaints from tenants — after which Black Lodge tried moving and then replacing its sound system with a decibel-limiting one, she said, hired a sound engineer to consult fixes, surrounded speakers with a foam-and-steel reverberation-reducing case, and changed its music to feature less bass and drums — she and her business partner issued the tenants upstairs a two-month eviction notice, plus one month’s rent money, stating they would be moving into the units.

If there’s anything the 33-year-old entrepreneur agrees on with her detractors, it’s that the “mess” is, indeed symbolic of the city’s affordability crisis.

“Absolutely … I definitely believe they probably wouldn't want to live there if they felt there was an accessible, viable affordable option elsewhere,” Wyrostok said. She said she learned about the Reddit post soon after it went online, and was swiftly shared to Facebook.

“Streams of one-star reviews started popping up on all our business pages that I can't moderate — Yelp and Google,” she recalled, “and my information was leaked so people started contacting me saying, 'Shame on you.’

“I’m hurt. I’m not a slum lord. I'm not a corporate entity. I'm an individual running an independent business with the best of my ability. I'm a cook and server here; I'm not some corporate owner who doesn't participate in my business.”

She said her eatery has donated to community causes, organized nalaxone training for its business neighbours, and supported a nearby independent artist-run space.

But the Reddit post outlines months of noise complaints made by the four tenants living in two suites above the Broadway Avenue storefront, both directly to restaurant staff since opening in October, and to the city.

The Reddit author did not reply to an interview request, and another tenant of the two-suite building declined several requests for comment, writing to Metro on Facebook that, “We've decided not to do the interview as we've taken it as public as we would like at this point.”

Wyrostok said it’s too late to undo the damage to her reputation, or the angry phone calls, she hopes the matter can be resolved before Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrators, not on social media.

“I'm upset that the reputation of my business acting 'illegally' — which it isn't — is really going to hurt my business,” she said. “The business is my dream — to own and operate something I feel proud of … to provide jobs for people who I care about and get to work with, and to pay them what's hopefully fair compensation.

"I'm doing this now out of necessity to keep operating my business.”

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