It’s not the homeless driving this restaurant from downtown Kelowna, it’s the taxes | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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It’s not the homeless driving this restaurant from downtown Kelowna, it’s the taxes

La Petite Maison is closing to make way for a cannabis shop.
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December 02, 2019 - 6:00 AM

La Petite Maison is a tiny restaurant operating just off the beat in downtown Kelowna.

According to its owner and numerous ratings web sites, it’s a five-star eatery, but it’s shutting down at the end of December.

“I have a lot of homeless people in my area,” owner Geof Holman told “No homeless people in my area have ever impacted my business. I’m an economic refugee. It’s just not cost effective to be in the restaurant business here.”

Holman emailed after reading a story about Boyd Tire and Auto Service owner Chad Abougoush complaining about the negative impact the homeless had on his business for the past few years.

He wanted to make a point that increasing property values are making it unaffordable for small independent businesses – especially restaurants – to survive in Kelowna.

“My building is an old house, due to be torn down and replaced with a cannabis store and some other uses,” he wrote. “I have looked to relocate in Kelowna but rents and taxes make it uneconomic to stay.”

He doesn’t blame the landlord for tearing down the house he rents next to the Columbia bottle depot on St. Paul Street, to build a larger two-storey building.

The way Holman’s lease is structured, he pays rent plus the property taxes on the site.

Those taxes, he said, have climbed from about $400 a year when he opened six years ago to more than $1,400 this year as land prices increased in the downtown core faster than other areas.

City and B.C. Assessment stats back that up.

In 2015 the 0.17 acre property with its 1,000 square foot house (built in 1960) was assessed at $465,000. In 2019, the value had risen to $1.1 million, with the house being valued at a mere $25,800.

Taxes this year were $14,586.

La Petite Maison has 16 seats but can fit twenty “friendly,” Holman said.

That means profit margins are slim and the continuing increases in taxes have taken their toll not only on his current location but on other commercial property throughout the city. He’s not been able to find another affordable location.

And the demographics of the city make it even harder to survive.

“This town is a retirement town,” Holman said. “It has always been a retirement town and always will be.”

Many of his customers are seniors who disappear in the winter.

He doesn’t buy into the idea that the boom in residential housing in his neighbourhood will bring in new clients, arguing that most of the new owners are snowbirds and the high housing costs are leaving too little disposable income for others to be able to afford to go out for dinner.

He also doesn’t buy into the idea that young tech workers will fill the gap.

“What young tech people? Give me a break,” he said. “Number one, most of those jobs are contract, short term, maybe up to two years. Number two, they don’t want to come here because nothing’s happening. They’d rather work in Vancouver or New Westminster. They’re not going to establish families because they can’t afford to buy a house.”

Holman knows of other small restaurants that are struggling with high rents which, he said, can be $11,000 a month on Bernard Avenue (including taxes).

He plans to open a restaurant next spring in Edmonton.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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