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'People behaving badly': Crime part of reason for Bliss Bakery's exit from downtown Kelowna

Bliss Bakery on Ellis Street in Kelowna will be closing this year.
Bliss Bakery on Ellis Street in Kelowna will be closing this year.
Image Credit: Bliss Bakery Instagram (@blissbakerybistro)

Bliss Bakery has been a crucial part of downtown Kelowna for a decade but now its coffee legacy is coming to an end.

Inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, rising rent and energy costs, and a higher minimum wage have put a strain on many small businesses.

For Bliss Bakery owner Barry Yeo it was enough to contemplate closing.

Yeo says he has thought about closing his Kelowna bakery for close to a year, but the business' breaking point came when his landlord increased the rent.

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“The cost of running business has gone up dramatically for us,” Yeo told 

“(Our landlord) wants to increase the rent and that was the final straw for us,” he said. “I can't see this store continuing in this manner. And so we made the tough decision that we are going to be closing. Definitely not an easy one.”

Yeo says he has grown tired of dealing with criminal and anti-social behaviour in and around his bakery.

“We've had a lot of issues with people behaving badly, we'll say, over many, many years,” Yeo said.

“I remember a few years ago, somebody threw a chair through one of our windows. It took five policemen to take the guy down. And honestly, he shattered the window. And if anybody had been there, the size of the pieces, someone could have been really seriously hurt or even killed.”

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Yeo says people have used the bakery's bathroom to inject drugs. Some have splattered blood across the bathroom, which bakery staff have had to clean.

“To give you an idea of some of the other things that have happened… (our store manager) called the police because there was a homeless fellow that came in and he was masturbating in the store,” Yeo said. “And there were kids there. I got the video and I identified the guy for the police and they had him in custody.”

Yeo says there has always been crime, but it has only worsened over time.

“It's definitely gotten worse,” he says.

Executive director of the Downtown Kelowna Association Mark Burley says that crime in Kelowna isn’t isolated to the downtown area.

“It's all around our city,” Burley told “We do the best that we can to mitigate it but the statistics are showing that the crime rate or the incidence of crime in downtown are lessening and increasing in other areas of the city.”

According to an RCMP report submitted to Kelowna city council, reports of break and enters at businesses were down by 44% in 2023, compared to the year before.

Crime generally was down by 20% in the downtown area as well.

READ MORE: Crime is dropping in downtown Kelowna but on the rise in Rutland: RCMP

Kyle Nixon is the owner of BNA Brewing Co. near Bliss Bakery on Ellis Street.

Nixon says he's saddened to see the bakery close. He hires security guards who stand guard until the early hours of the morning, keeping his business safe from crime.

"(As) somebody that's in the community, I see things boarded up,” Nixon told “We have to be part of the solution on how everybody can coexist and we've had a lot of those conversations on how can we all work with the city and how can we support the less fortunate.”

Nixon feels the city has put in a lot of work to support small businesses and reduce crime in the downtown area.

“I think the city is trying their best and working with business owners, but also working with the less fortunate,” he said. “In my opinion, it seems like we're trending in a better direction.”

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In the meantime, Yeo will be turning his attention towards his West Kelowna and Peachland bakeries.

“Downtown Kelowna is such a beautiful area,” Yeo said. “I hate to see this kind of thing going on, and the small businesses really do pay the price.

“What we're doing to curb this bad behaviour is not just not working. I don't have the answers. I make bread and muffins for a living. But it can't continue on this route or I think more businesses will leave downtown.”

Yeo doesn’t have a set date for the closure but he assumes it will be within the next six months.

“It's sad that we're letting the store go, but it's a little bit liberating because of the challenges we had. We're not going to be dealing with those pretty soon and that makes me happy and sad at the same time.”

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