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Calgary restaurant shocked to find out the city is telling them to vacate historic building

Click to play video: 'Calgary restaurant staff shocked to find out the city is telling them to vacate historic building' Calgary restaurant staff shocked to find out the city is telling them to vacate historic building
WATCH: The owners of a popular restaurant in Calgary's Eau Claire neighbourhood say they were shocked to find out the city is ending their lease. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, it's all part of the city's efforts to reconstruct the downtown plaza – Mar 3, 2021

Calgary’s1886 Buffalo Café has been around for 40 years but the owners were recently told they have until April 30 to vacate the historical building.

“We were pretty shocked by it, for sure,” said Steve Said, the manager of 1886 Buffalo Café, on Wednesday.

“Considering all our communication has been about renewing our lease and extending it for five years.”

The café is located in the Eau Claire & Bow River Lumber Co. building on Eau Claire Plaza.

The Eau Claire reconstruction project starts this spring. The city needs to move the building to the north end of the plaza to protect it from construction.

“Unfortunately, this requires the closure of the building during the multi-year plaza and flood work. It also, unfortunately, means the end of the lease for the café’s long-standing operators,” Ward 7 Coun. Druh Farrell said on her Facebook page Tuesday.

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Read more: Closure of Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA leaves bigger concerns about Calgary’s downtown

The city said the tenant was first informed of the plaza improvements in 2017, along with an eventual requirement to terminate their lease. At that time, it changed from a long-term lease to a month-to-month lease with a 30-day termination clause.

The café manager said in February 2020 the owners were negotiating a new lease.

“We were month to month, and in February 2020, we negotiated a new lease with the city. There’s a little bit of language that needed to be cleaned up for it, and we resubmitted, and since then, we were asking where our lease was and then we found out on Feb. 1 that the lease wasn’t going to be renewed,” Said said.

The city said it’s helping the owners by providing a 90-day termination notice and that rent hasn’t been charged since October 2020. In addition, attempts were made to find an alternative space for the tenant.

In a proposal letter dated Feb. 20, 2020, the city said it offered a five-year fixed lease with a 180-day termination clause but the tenant did not follow through to a fully executed agreement, so their existing month-to-month lease remained in effect.

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“For years leading up to the closure, the city has been very transparent with the café operators that closure is coming because of the plaza work, moving them onto a month-to-month lease in 2017,” said Farrell.

“The city has provided triple the required notice of the lease ending, and the city has also provided significant tenant relief, including not charging rent since October 2020 and trying to find a new location in the area. Nonetheless, the loss of the tenants is still unfortunate, and we wish them all the very best in their future endeavours.”

Read more: Calgary city councillor disappointed with continued delays in Eau Claire development

The city issued the tenant a lease termination notice on Feb. 1,2021, and said in a statement it directed the café to another landlord in the area who had vacant space. They were also informed that the planned start of construction would trigger the ending of the lease.

“We certainly recognize that this move-out will be significant for this tenant, and we will continue to work with them and do what we can within our abilities to facilitate a smooth and timely transition. We do this in the interests of revitalizing Eau Claire as an investment in our downtown,” the statement from the city read.

The owners have started a petition to stay in the location and to show how much the café means to the community.

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The owners are considering relocating but said a big part of the experience at the café is the building itself.

“The problem is a major part of our concept is the fact we are a heritage building, and to find something like that is going to be next to impossible,” Said said.

According to the city, the future purpose of the Bow River Lumber Co. building has yet to be determined but if restaurant is included as an option, 1886 Buffalo Café will have the opportunity to make an application as part of the publicly marketed leasing process in accordance with the city’s real estate bylaw.

The Bow River Lumber Co. building is not legally protected federally, provincially or municipally as a heritage building. However, it is on the city’s inventory of evaluated ihstoric resources.

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