Tears galore as the popular restaurant Kitsilano serves its last meals, Nelly is forced to close due to a rent increase.

“Things happen beyond our control and people bigger than us can crush dreams. Come say goodbye and we’ll try not to cry.” — Nelson Ma

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A restaurant owner who has been serving Kitsilano breakfast with a smile for 30 years says a sudden increase in rent is now forcing him out of business.

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Community business representatives say they are seeing a similar trend along the West 4th Avenue strip. Other mom-and-pop stores are sinking under the growing weight of commercial market costs.

“Things happen beyond our control and dreams can be crushed by people bigger than us,” Nelson Ma, 68, told patrons in a Facebook post, announcing his plans to close the restaurant by the end of July. .

“Come say goodbye and we’ll try not to cry.”

Located east of Arbutus Street, Nelly’s Grill is a popular spot with locals, known for combining two brunch favorites into a fried chicken with Eggs Benedict.

After their building was purchased last September, restaurant manager Joyce Yee said the new owner, Novena Land Property, told them of his plans to raise the rent once Ma’s lease was up in 18 months. .

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“He’s been paying about $9,000 a month in rent and property taxes, but to renew he’d have to pay more than double that,” said Yee, who has worked at the restaurant for 17 years.

“All employees have been grieving. We’ve seen clients’ families grow and grow over the years.”

Although Ma has tried to find other leasing options, inflated rent costs throughout the city prevent him from relocating the restaurant, Yee said.

“The new owner has already hired workers to do renovations on the upstairs during catering, it’s heartbreaking. We feel we have no choice but to leave.”

Lauren Angelucci, a Kitsilano resident of 20 years, said she was saddened to hear the news of the restaurant’s closure.

“I am so sad to see the place go. Our baby’s first meal was there when he was only a week old.”

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The restaurant was not the first on the strip to feel displaced by rising rental costs proposed after a change in ownership. In December, a real estate agent who walked into Bishop’s restaurant said the building had been sold and a rent increase was coming.

“The realtor told us the rent alone would be $100 a square foot,” said owner John Bishop, who opened the fine-dining establishment in 1986 when rent and property taxes were around $2,000 a month.

By early 2022, costs had increased 10-fold.

“We just couldn’t afford to stay open,” Bishop said. “After 37 years in business, paying rent and taxes, I thought being a good tenant might have mattered, but we weren’t offered any chance to negotiate rent.”

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A business that used to operate two doors down from Nelly’s, Peak Golf, told Postmedia it moved to a less expensive store on West 4th once new owners took over in September.

Jane McFadden, executive director of the Kitsilano Commercial Association, said she has seen several shops and restaurants along the road close because their prices are out of the commercial market.

“It is unfortunate to see old businesses like Nelly’s, which contain many memories, close. However, these new owners often just raise rental prices, many of which have stayed the same for years under the old owner, to current market value.”

McFadden said the West 4th business district continues to thrive.

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“In the last six months, 11 new small businesses have opened physical business locations along the strip.”

While commercial rents fell in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Statistics Canada’s Commercial Rental Price Index, they began to rise again, and in early 2022, recovered to pre-pandemic levels. , although sales did not recover. the same grade.

In Vancouver, the average net commercial rent applied for increased 27 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2022, according to Canadian real estate giant Colliers.

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