Montreal family restaurant on the brink due to roadwork outside, owner says

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Darbar, a popular Indian restaurant tucked away on St-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal, is home to Simar Anand. Literally.

He was born and raised on the second floor of the restaurant, which was once his parents’ apartment.

“The upstairs dining room is actually the original living room,” the owner of Darbar said. “And where we have the upstairs bathrooms for our guests is actually our original kitchen.”

“So the upstairs has a lot of value to me because that’s where I grew up,” he said.

That’s why when Anand’s father passed away from COVID-19 in 2020, the closure of the restaurant his father had run for 26 years didn’t even cross his mind.

“This restaurant is my connection to my dad, and so I’ve done my best for the past two years, even during the pandemic, to keep it going for as long as possible,” Anand said.

Anand is pictured with his father, who ran the restaurant for 26 years. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC News)

But that became even more difficult to do due to construction work on St-Laurent Boulevard right outside the doors of his restaurant. Anand says it is killing business and forced it to close temporarily.

“We’ve been through a whole global pandemic that couldn’t stop us and at this point the work the city is doing on the streets is about to bankrupt us,” he said.

“Complete Chaos”

Anand says he made the difficult decision to close his restaurant indefinitely nearly three weeks ago after he said customers started canceling reservations left and right after construction began on July 11.

“People are canceling because they don’t want to deal with that. They don’t want to jump over barriers or barricades or platforms with massive ditches in the ground,” Anand said.

Barricades, orange cones and yellow tape fill the street in front of the Darbar restaurant. The owner says his staff couldn’t enter the restaurant one day because the entrance was barricaded. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC News)

He says the construction wasn’t just a barrier for customers – staff were struggling too. On July 23, Anand said, the entrance to his restaurant was barricaded with yellow tape, preventing staff from entering the establishment.

“It’s total chaos in the street right now,” Anand said. “At this point, it doesn’t even make sense for me to open.”

The shutdown left nearly a dozen of his employees – many of whom had worked for his father for years – out of work, including part-time dishwasher Belgin Oduyakmaz.

“I am a single mother, so I lost two weeks of income. It is clearly affecting me and my children,” she lamented.

Not eligible for relief program

Anand says that two weeks before the start of construction, the city of Montreal contacted him to let him know of the plans and also to demand that he dismantle his terrace, which he refused to do during the most difficult period. busy of the year for her restaurant.

Since then, Anand says it’s been radio silence from the town as he struggles to get financial relief for his losses.

Belgin Oduyakmaz, a part-time dishwasher in Darbar, says losing two weeks of income has been a challenge for her as a single mother. (Radio-Canada News)

He says his application for the city’s relief program to help businesses affected by construction zones was denied because he was told it was closing too early to qualify. He added that he was also told that the project, which was to last 10 weeks, was too short for him to qualify for financial assistance.

“I can tell you that the loss I will suffer during these 10 weeks in the middle of the summer far exceeds the loss I would have suffered if you had carried out this project for six months at any other time in the year. ‘year,” says Anand.

In a statement, municipal opposition Ensemble Montreal called the relief package dysfunctional, saying about $20 million was in the fund.

Meanwhile, Anand says he has to pay bills amounting to almost $30,000 by next week – an amount he says he doesn’t have. He is now turning to his insurance company to see if he can recover the lost money.

“At this point, I’m trying to hold on to whatever I can to get through this.”

City says it’s working to support owner

In a statement to CBC News, the mayor’s office said the city is working with Anand to find different ways to support him during roadwork. The project, which consists of replacing a leaded water supply, should last until September

“We are aware that construction work can cause inconvenience[s] and we strive to limit them as much as possible,” the statement said.

The city says it has put Anand in touch with a liaison officer who is available to resolve “any issues that may arise in connection with the work.” It also says a city official visits the site three times a week to ensure access to the business is maintained.

The City of Montreal says it is working with Anand to find different ways to support him during roadwork. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC News)

Anand is now calling for a reform of the city’s relief program. But for the family business, recouping the monetary loss is only part of the uphill battle it faces.

“What is not taken into account is the loss of customers, the loss of employees, the loss of inventory,” he said.

He says he will have to work hard to rebuild his clientele in hopes of carrying on his father’s legacy.

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