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DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE - Members of the DTES Not For Developers Coalition have raked a local restaurateur over the coals. Mark Brand, owner of several upscale venues including Save On Meats, showed up at a Coalition planning session at Carnegie Community Centre today.
Brand stars in an Oprah Network 'reality TV' show entitled Gastown Gamble about his purchase and reopening of Save on Meats in the 'gritty' Downtown Eastside. In a promo for the show, Brand refers to the neighbourhood as "ìnfamous" and calls his latest project "a business that encompasses real social values." He adds that "Maybe we`re fuckin`nuts, but we want Save On to be the place where everyone can eat, work and shop together."
Members of the DTES Power of Women group and others in the crowd took exception to the claim, citing several experiences of rude treatment of low-income people at the hands of Brand`s staff. One audience member said low-income people feel villified and "treated like a piece of meat." Many called on Brand to lower his prices if he really wants to be accessible.
Brand said that if he hadn't bought Save On Meats it would have ended up as more condos. He left the meeting amid calls he should leave the neighbourhood.
The audience of about 100 cited ongoing problems created by the invasion of condos and high-end businesses including feeling singled out, disrespected and humiliated in high-end stores, while older more affordable stores are being driven out by development and high rents.
Quotes collected during the meeting by Raise the Rates' Jean Swanson include:
"The DTES women's centre is completely surrounded by a doggy spa, art gallery and two fancy coffee shops."
"Who can afford $45 entres?"
"We need a nice $3 lunch."
"I went into a restaurant and the clerk came up to me and said there's a minimum charge."
"I went into a place with my daughter and they made me feel like a piece of shit."
"I'll be damned if I'm going to let a small business come into my community and tell me, 'you don't belong here.'"
"I don't feel comfortable going into a restaurant where I'm going to be scrutinzed and looked down on; it's because the people who work there don't live here."
"I walked into London Drugs dressed like this and I was immediately asked if they could look in my bag."
"I have to find a place where four litres of milk doesn't cost $7."