A few doors down from Simon’s Bike Shop, the family-owned India Gate Restaurant has been serving the theatre, concert and downtown business crowds for a remarkable 41 years. The Gupta family opened their doors on Feb. 1, 1978. They were informed of their upcoming 2019 renoviction by mail.
Gupta’s father, the charming Rachhpal Gupta, opened the restaurant with his wife after moving here from India. At 74, he still works the lunch rush alongside his son.
“This is our second home,” Gupta senior told me with a warm smile. “The rent has always been reasonable here.”
Time Frame Gallery first opened its doors on the corner of Robson and Seymour in 1977, making it the oldest shop on the block. New owner Christie Scott bought the business less than two years ago, and had no idea then that the building would be sold shortly after she signed a three-year lease.
“As the new owner, I barely got up and running. Now I have the added challenge of moving this whole thing.”
Scott pays $17,000 a month in rent for her 2,000-square-foot space.
“We have to sell a lot of greeting cards and picture frames to make that, let alone pay the staff,” Scott told me with a sigh.
I asked all three business owners if they expected to be given first right of refusal for the new retail spaces that comes with the tower.
“I have not been offered anything,” Scott told me. “They couldn’t care less, I don’t think. Apparently longevity — this shop being here for over 40 years — doesn’t count for much. This corner will probably become a Starbucks under another tower.”
Coutts agreed, and suggested the rent they all pay now is far better than even directly across the street at newly opened eateries such as Meat and Bread.
“They’re probably paying double what we are,” Coutts said.
Bonnis Properties was contacted for comment, but did not respond by deadline.
The Guptas remember a time when Robson Street was filled with interesting little shops for blocks. Further along Robson, before it became a fashion district, the area was known as Robsonstrasse, a primarily European neighbourhood filled with schnitzel houses, delis, bakeries, international magazine shops, and independent bookstores.
“With us leaving, everything on Robson will be corporate or a chain,” Gupta junior told me. “With new towers come much higher rents. But there’s never been so many empty store fronts along Robson, especially in the fashion district, and they’re the ones who should be able to afford it.”
Once evicted, the Guptas say they’ll likely close the doors on India Gate for good after four successful decades in the neighbourhood. Coutts and Scott hope to find new locations. Scott has scouted Davie Street for Time Frame Gallery, aiming for a smaller space. Coutts has his eye on Library Square. Both feel it’s important to stay in the downtown core, as challenging as that may be in 2019.
“Alright, yes, it is a bit sad to be leaving,” Coutts eventually admitted. “I’ve been here for so long, and I’m the last bike shop in the downtown core. But I’ll negotiate, I’ll relocate, and I’ll still be downtown. I’ll be OK. I’ve sold bikes for a living to all walks of life for over 30 years. It’s an enjoyable thing to do. Do I look stressed to you?”