Anti-poverty group slams luxury Toronto Gardiner Expressway dining experience

WATCH ABOVE: Anti-poverty protestors say a luxury dining experience taking place under the Gardiner Expressway, is “disgusting”. Pointing to Toronto's homelessness crisis, adding dozens are being kicked out from living under the highway, as the urban “elite” pay hundreds to eat there. Jamie Mauracher reports.

Hundreds of anti-poverty protesters are slated to break bread under the Gardiner Expressway Friday night, taking a stand against a luxury dinner event taking place a short distance away.

“We are hosting Dinner with a View…of the Rich,” said a spokesperson for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

It’s a play on Dinner with a View, which opened in Toronto on March 28. Patrons are paying $149 to rent a clear dome to sit in and then $99 per guest to dine on the Bentway, under the Gardiner Expressway. Billed as a unique experience, with food curated by Top Chef Rene Rodriguez, Dinner with a View is almost completely sold out.

READ MORE: Poverty activists to protest luxury ‘dome’ dining event staged near former homeless camp

Protesters said they take issue with the fact the pricey dinners are being held about a kilometre from where the city of Toronto recently dismantled a “tent city.”

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Coun. Kristin Wong-Tam said the city removed the tents due to health concerns but added there are about 9,000 homeless in Toronto that need shelter on any given night.

“People (are) sleeping in ravines, in neighbourhood streets, in the park, and we are finding people under the Gardiner,” said Wong-Tam.

And while she understands people want to enjoy an interesting night out, Wong-Tam said she supports OCAP’s position to protest.

“Having people sleep under the Gardiner and then being removed because of concerns of their health and then at the same time see people pay very expensive fees to then dine under similar spaces under the bridge — the timing is very unfortunate,” said Wong-Tam.

“I think there is an opportunity for people to come together to actually raise the issue around homelessness and poverty and have a conversation.”

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But supporters of the dinner argue The Bentway, a public space beneath the expressway that opened in early 2018, was made to host these types of urban events.

READ MORE: City of Toronto staff remove encampments under Gardiner Expressway

In a statement to Global News, Dinner with a View said it was aware of the protest but want to highlight that it was in no way involved with the city’s decision to remove the tent city under the highway.

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“We are sympathetic to those impacted by the city’s actions and were in no way involved with the decision-making process. No encampments were removed to make way for Dinner With A View,” the statement read. “To clarify, Dinner With A View is an independently organized event. Our venue, the Bentway, is run by an independent charity and not an agency of the city of Toronto.

“Events like Dinner With A View generate funds that keep the Bentway safe, welcoming and beautiful. This also allows the Bentway to offer free (or low-cost) year-round recreational, artistic and educational programming for the people of Toronto.”

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Dinner With A View runs until May 2.

OCAP says Dinner with a View…of the Rich is expecting to cater to more than 400 people.

The protest is set to begin at around 6:30 p.m.