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Piggin' Business

Gentrification Atrocity in the DTES

by Joseph Jones

Pickets with Cop Car
Pickets with Cop Car
Understated Sign + Folding Iron Cage
Understated Sign + Folding Iron Cage
Outside and Inside
Outside and Inside
Find the Owner
Find the Owner
First Upstairs, Then Downstairs
First Upstairs, Then Downstairs

Also posted by Joseph Jones:

A one-hour picket went up at "PiDGiN" in the heart of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside at noon hour on Tuesday February 5 and has recurred since then.

You can tell that entrepreneur restauranteur Brandon Grossutti is still feeling antsy about getting that kind of attention a few days after his grand opening.

On the evening of Thursday February 7 Grossutti spent a good deal of time out on the sidewalk — observing the picketers, photographing the picketers, talking to the picketers, and offering the picketers a free snack from a box.

But no yelling, or being called "the poverty industry," which is what one of the anchor organizers said he got the first time around. A police car remained in evidence nearby for the entire hour, and at one point two sturdy boys in blue strode through the sidewalk congregation.

One picketer decided to check out prices on the menu. She respectfully left her sign lying on the sidewalk outside. Almost immediately she was coming back out the door to report being told: "I can refuse service to anyone I want. You're not welcome."

Several passers-by joined the picket group for brief periods. Two of them got rowdier than the long-termers ever did. The corner of Hastings and Carrall is a good place to find some company, right across the street from the fabled Pigeon Park. Here's hoping that Sunday diners can discover a few bargains at the street market on their way in for a pricey fancy bite. Probably they don't care about bargains?

In case you wondered, "pidgin" actually means business. Starting out as a Chinese pronunciation of the English word "business," it transmuted into another way of saying lingua franca or hybrid language.

Grossutti is out for business. He said he's been planning this undertaking for ten years, has borrowed money, and stands to lose everything if the venture fails. After he talked about employing twenty people, I asked if that was the number of staff in the restaurant. More precisely, he then said the restaurant has eleven full-time staff.

As for the innards of the business, and what goes on behind the glass, it seems best to let a foodie mag that explicitly prides itself on gluttony and vanity [take a look at the online masthead] coo about things like the chef and the decor.

In their world, nothing is accidental. The swish article says:

Clearly, a lot of thought went into everything a diner’s eye might set upon, and that includes the wide angle view of the oft-sordid goings on across the street at Pigeon Park.

If it really is all so planned, you have to wonder why Grossutti appears to have put so much at risk personally on this deal — and why he is so obviously anxious about picketing that seems not to have been foreseen.

Grossutti may already have learned that he is adding insult to injury in the eyes of regular residents of the Downtown Eastside. The condo space above, 21 Doors, is notorious for the eviction and displacement that paved the way for that recent incursion of gentrification.

Picketing is scheduled to continue on Friday 8 February 2013 from noon to 1:00 pm and from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

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Article makes big assumption

I don't understand the assumption that this restaurant is automatically bad because its expensive and its in the DTES. Therefore I should be part of the target audience of this article. I think it would be useful to explain the rational behind the assumption so the article can speak to an audience beyond those who already agree with it.


What you call "the assumption" looks like your projection. You want event reporting to be issue analysis. That's like asking an onion why it is not laid out like a carrot, and tastes different to boot.

You can find a lot of recent and relevant local context pulled together at Vision Vancouver Hits the Panic Button. For the analysis that you seem to be seeking, google for gentrification bibliography and then read your eyes out. Thanks for caring enough to want to know more.

The title of the article

The title of the article contains "gentrification atrocity" so its clearly an editorial, not just an account of something that happened. Thanks for the link, that's the kind of thing that could be included with the original article in place of more in depth discussion. 

Pigeonhole Pigeonhole

We diverge on epistemology. Your textual universe seems to consist of discrete genre entities. Mine doesn't. I'd say that every "article" in the Vancouver Sun amounts to an editorial — especially the articles that are not found there. There is no naked realm of wie es eigentlich gewesen onto which perspective gets pasted.

I totally agree with you

I totally agree with you about the Sun. So I guess we can agree that pretty much every article in the Sun is written with an agenda besides either informing the public or stimulating meaningful debate on important issues. What would you say is your motivation to write your articles? The reason I ask is that it seems to me that your article is written from a point of view that considers the restaurant owner to be a kind of villain. And since I don't agree with that slant, I would be interested to hear an argument as to why the restaurant owner's actions are morally wrong.


"Authorial intent" is a highly contested concept. A text is ultimately what the reader finds in the words. Perhaps nothing more than the reader's own idiosyncratic presumptions. For me to fabricate a secondary text that purports to "mean" more than what I wrote in the first place is just one step along a path to infinite regress — not to mention the possibility of uselessly attempting to elaborate on self-delusion or blindness to the obvious. This is not being cute but acute. The one thing I will do is quote a few of the words relating to the owner that especially stand out for me — words which for me have nothing to do with the owner's morality: "Business … risk … seems not to have been foreseen."

Ok, and I will quote a few

Ok, and I will quote a few words that do relate to the owner's morality "atrocity", "insult" and is "Piggin business" not meant to be read as "a pig in business"?

But the motivation behind my original post was not to debate the literary qualities of your article, but to gain some insight into this issue. I think its likely that you and I agree on many issues, and so that is why if there is an issue on which we don't agree, I am all the more interested to hear your arguments on it.


You have just provided a prime example of reader creating meaning. You found "a pig in business" in the title. At a minimum, that's evidence for how you think and/or how you read. So it's hard for me to say it isn't there if that's what you found. But neither can you say that is what I put there. To interpret my own perception of the verbal resonances, with great reluctance, I offer these two as most apparent to me: (1) If you take "piggin" as pun on "pidgin," together with the semantics that underlie "pidgin," the title basically says "business business." (2) A foodie mag that vaunts its adherence to gluttony and vanity thinks PiDGiN is hot stuff – an excrescence of a sick culture of people into piggin. "Atrocity" and "insult" look to me like nothing more than an assessment of how longterm local residents view the new establishment. You could get out there on the sidewalk and ask some of them. Of course, what you hear could be different from what I hear, just like how you read seems to be different from how I read.

Do you think this restaurant

Do you think this restaurant is a bad thing for society?

Decent language

Why the homophobia? What is the Van Media Co-op doing? To allow THIS kind of language??

One Joseph Jones writes, "In their world, nothing is accidental. The swish article says..."

SWISH article? No one uses degrading language like this any more -- at least not in progressive circles.

'Swish' is a well-known insult referring to alleged effeminate behavior, typically on the part of young men. I understand that Jones is an older, retired man. He knows precisely what 'swish' means.

Unless Jones was referring to a basketball shot, he owes the queer community an apology for his offensive language. We don't use this tired language any more. Jones should know better.


Without intending to take away from the point, I'm not sure the assumption about the author's intent is fair. The word has several definitions and uses. It has been used as an adjective for well over 200 years to mean posh/stylish/fashionable, which is, I think, how the word was used in this piece. I don't think an understanding of the word, including its use as a degrading insult, is universal. Maybe it should be. And maybe it should be replaced with "posh" or something else in this case. But I think assuming the author intended to use a homophobic slur is jumping to conclusions.

Swish is a N word

Someone of Joseph Jones' generation knows perfectly well what is meant by the use of 'swish'. In his generation, in Canada, it is universally understood as an anti-gay slur.

Jones, who takes pride in a vast vocabulary, chose that degrading word for a reason.

Would you dream of calling someone 'swish'? Of course not. In our time, it has become unacceptable. 

His offending term 'swish' is prefaced by code: " seems best to let a foodie mag that explicitly prides itself on gluttony and vanity [take a look at the online masthead] coo about things like the chef and the decor." 

"Coo" about things, Sandra? Surely you see his insinuation. If Jones intended another meaning, he would have chosen another word. Or perhaps he wants us to believe that pigeons wrote the food magazine, and are entitled to "coo".

In Jones' world, nothing is accidental.




Thanks, Sandra, you've said it. The word is not in my active vocabulary, so I checked it in Merriam-Webster online before using it. In the à la mode sense outlined there — along with 17 other useful synonyms that include exclusive, fashionable, happening, hip, in. That usage goes back to 1766. Finally, the adjective is not the noun. Read the dictionary. As to "coo," all I had in mind was the sound emitted by all the pigeons / PiDGiNs / piggins swarming through my head. A clear collocation — pigeons coo. One more object lesson in the possible disjunct between what goes into a text and what can be gotten out of it. In my lexicon, one connotation of a word does not establish basis for totalized semantic appropriation.

How long?

Hey there,

I live above this restauraunt. I own my first home, which happens to be a condo, so I understand that people dislike that I live here. (there were protests when my husband and I moved in, too. I don't entirely agree with the sentiment, but that doesn't matter. This is Canada and we're free to protest.)

My question is this: How long will this protest continue? (Because the space inside is actually sound proof- nobody can hear the protestors in there, but I can hear them in my house and it makes it hard to do homework/study)

Also, what would you like us to do? I am willing to work with my community to make things better, but if the only solution offered is 'get out- you aren't allowed here' it seems a bit odd to me. 


Thank you for reading my comments. I hope these protests open opportunities for dialogue in our community. 


From Now Till Then

Your question deserves some sort of answer. The best I can do is point to one piece of current evidence — this article from yesterday reports: They said they will continue with the almost-daily demonstrations until gentrification halts or the restaurant shuts down.

I dunno if that's going to

I dunno if that's going to happen. It seems a lot of people have been coming and going just because of the press coverage. (I talked to Brandon on Wednesday and he said business has been really busy just because people keep reading about it in the paper.)

Either way, it's the right of the protestors as Canadians to continue as long as they like. They seem to be nice enough people, even though our thoughts don't quite match up. 

Thanks for taking time to answer me and providing some clarity. All the best. - Christine

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