An independent Vancouver food business and restaurant on the Downtown Eastside has announced they will be closing their Hastings Street location due to what they're calling "deplorable conditions" in the area.
Balila, a Middle Eastern hummus-focused restaurant, opened up at 47 West Hastings in early 2018. Now the business has announced it is closing at the end of the month, not only because of the ongoing pandemic but also because "the conditions of the area are getting wors[e] by the day."
Residents and business owners in the area have been increasingly vocal over the last few months about the tent city that arose in Strathcona Park following the dismantling of the one at Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside, as well as the volume of crime in the neighbourhood.
The most recent homeless count conducted in March showed there were 2,095 people in Vancouver who were either living in some form of shelter, or on the street, including those residing in recreational vehicles and cars, which there are many at the edge of Strathcona Park.
Coun. Pete Fry, who lives in Strathcona and was recently threatened on a sidewalk by a man saying he would stab him, outlined some of those concerns last month in addressing park board commissioners.
“There have been trip-line booby traps, bear bangers shot at park users, threats with weapons, swarmings, verbal accosting and physical assaults directly as a result of the encampment,” Fry said.
Balila's operators say they "fear for our customers' health and safety as well as [that] of our team members and partners," at the Hastings location, saying the problems are "evident to the naked eye."
Those problems, explain the owners, are driving customers away and hurting Balila's bottom line: "Our sales level[s] have not been sustainable within the Hastings area. Our decision, to the most, is based on an area that brings strong concerns to both the mental and physical health of our Balila family, our partners, and most certainly our customers."
Balila also operates a location at 983 Helmcken, which will continue to remain open. The plan is to find another suitable location for a second Balila outpost in the coming months.
Here is their closing announcement in full, from the company’s Instagram account, @balilahummus:
On September 30, 2020, and after thorough assessment we will regretfully shut our doors down at our 47 West Hastings location and relocate to a new outlet.
Our decision is based on what is evident to the naked eye: deplorable conditions to the surrounding area. And in times of an ongoing pandemic, we fear for our customer's health and safety as well as those of our team members and partners particularly that the conditions of the area are getting worst by the day.
Balila Taste Kitchen revenues has long relied in its strategy on catering, third party vendors and take-outs; hence, our sales level have not been sustainable within the Hastings area. Our decision, to the most, is based on an area that brings strong concerns to both the mental and physical health of our Balila family, our partners, and most certainly our customers.
Our 983 Helmcken location will continue to serve Balila's deliciousness to our customers in the downtown Vancouver area.
SME's like us constitute over 90% of Canadian businesses. Having to walk away from where it all started for reasons beyond our control but could very well be rectified by the City of Vancouver is quite disappointing.
As our catering clients and third-party vendors have the flexibility to go where we go, we sadly leave our neighborhood customers behind. We will miss you. Most of you we know on first name basis and it certainly is saddening not to see you again.
Thank you for all your support, all the meals we prepared and shared, and all the great times ❤️
An update on our new location will be disclosed in the coming few months
The Balila Team