Indian restaurant stares down Vancouver city hall over facade

An Indian-fusion restaurant on Main Street is fighting a city order to remove its newly built, natural wooden facade at its expanded location.

East is East owner Mustafa Reza said the new facade fits the neighbourhood well. He said public support against the city order has been overwhelming with almost 4,000 people, mostly from the surrounding Little Mountain community, signing either a paper or online petition in less than two weeks.

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Reza said the neighbourhood has embraced the new organic design, which is hand-crafted from local cedar, because it fits well with the history and heritage of Main Street with its wide array of ethnic stores and antique shops.

I challenge the city, if they can find five people who dont like our design and who says the design doesnt fit with the culture of Main Street, Reza said. Then we will change it.

The citys planning department told the restaurant the new design does not fit with neighbourhood guidelines and needs to be revamped before the new venue, which would feature live ethnic music, can open its doors.

But Rezas attorney said his client has complied with city bylaws for building standards and the order is based on a single city staffers opinion.

It comes down to being a matter of taste, I think, said Jonathon Baker who specializes in zoning and municipal law. They want a look similar to other buildings in the area like McDonalds with neon signs.

Baker argued development planner Bob Adair, who is in charge of overseeing the restaurants application, made his decision based purely on aesthetics.

In his judgment he didnt like the façade, he didnt like the looks of it, Baker said. Well, he may not like the Mona Lisa so theres no accounting for taste.

Both Baker and Reza said too much red tape inhibits small businesses and entrepreneurs from thriving and being creative in Vancouver.

Vancouver has some of the most beautiful, progressive and open-minded people, Reza said. But with the bureaucrats at city hall theres just so much red tape and its really, really difficult for any small business owner to be creative.

Reza added he feels Mayor Gregor Robertson is a very sincere person and is a regular customer at East is East, but more has to be done for Vancouver to shake its reputation as a boring city.

In order for Vancouver to realize its vision that local government has to support creative entrepreneurs to create new venues for art and multiculturalism and to make Vancouver the greenest city by 2020, he said.

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