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Clothing store angers restaurant targeted by Vancouver anti-gentrification protests

The owner of a clothing store located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside beside controversial Pidgin Restaurant is under fire for a window installation that some say is offensive.

Since Pidgin opened its doors nearly a year ago, the space has been plagued with anti-gentrification picketers whose relentless presence outside the upscale eatery has been frustrating for owner Brandon Grossuti.

Now, Grossuti said his restaurant is being unfairly targeted again, but this time from another local business.

Clothing store Savant, which is opening soon next to Pidgin, plastered its windows with images of a young boy with a finger in his nose and the words, “Pick-it line starts here.”

GALLERY: Pick-it line starts here

A store next to Pidgin restaurant is causing controversy after a window installation that says, "Pick-it line starts here." Credit: Brian Coxford.
A store next to Pidgin restaurant is causing controversy after a window installation that says, "Pick-it line starts here." Credit: Brian Coxford.
A store next to Pidgin restaurant is causing controversy after a window installation that says, "Pick-it line starts here." Credit: Brian Coxford.
A store next to Pidgin restaurant is causing controversy after a window installation that says, "Pick-it line starts here." Credit: Brian Coxford.

Grossuti said the signage is offensive to both sides of the issue.

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“I think it’s really insensitive to try and capitalize off of a lot of the pain that has happened here and outside of the restaurant and to make fun of it,” Grossuti said.

“[Their] goal is to get some controversy, the goal is to, for good or ill press, to try and get their name out there and it’s insensitive to make fun of the hardship that we’ve gone through and to the protesters and all they’ve gone through.”

Savant owner Chris Ritchie said the art wasn’t meant to be offensive and was done as a social experiment by local-artist Raif Adelberg.

“It did exactly what we thought it would do,” Ritchie said. “I don’t know if [gaining attention] was a motivation, but it definitely did get us a lot of attention.”

Ritchie said that while he knew Adelberg was creating the window installation, he had nothing to do with the design or wording.

“It was his imagery,” Ritchie said. “He did it on his own and I was aware there was going to be images, but I had nothing to do with the design.”

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After being threatened with fines of $50 a week for violating strata rules and backlash from Grossuti, who asked him to take the signage down, Ritchie agreed, however he said it was never supposed to be permanent.

He plans to replace the installation with other images that he hopes won’t be offensive.

The issue of gentrification has been a hot topic in the area during the last year, but that hasn’t stopped Pidgin from gaining positive attention as well as negative.

Air Canada’s enRoute magazine recently voted the restaurant one of the top five best restaurants in the country.

Anti-gentrification protesters have also targeted Cuchillo, another new restaurant that opened in the Downtown Eastside last year.

With files from Brian Coxford