Restaurateur blames demise on government policies

The owner of a longtime Marpole restaurant says he can't do business in Vancouver anymore.

Angelo Khoshaba, who's owned Cravings restaurant at 8808 Osler St. for 21 years, is selling. He said the combination of higher property taxes, increased operating costs, increases in minimum wage and the addition of a new statutory holiday have taken their toll on his business.

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"It's been one after another. We call it death by a thousand paper cuts- It's making it very difficult to earn a decent living. You work harder, you can't make as much money," Khoshaba said.

He plans to sell the restaurant to a younger owner. "You need somebody that's younger, more energetic to fight through this," said Khoshaba. "I am 55, I don't have it. There's only so many years left in my life and even if I fight through this one and turn it around, I won't be around to enjoy the benefits of it."

Claudia Laroye, executive director of the Marpole Business Association, sympathizes with Khoshaba's struggles. "He is a fantastic person and a good entrepreneur, and I think he's come up against the frustration of trying to do business in this city," said Laroye. "The city doesn't want to admit that it's not easy to actually do business from a small business perspective in the city of Vancouver. It's actually quite difficult."

Laroye said increasing property taxes have hit small businesses the hardest, and the city needs to rethink its tax policies. Businesses can pay over four times the residential rates for property taxes. "That's a system that is reaching a point of a paradigm shift of it no longer being possible for people to make a living while trying to operate a business and employ people while paying taxes into the city coffers," said Laroye.

Laroye said Cravings' change in ownership is a loss for the community. "It was one of the first restaurants I ever went to when I first lived in Marpole 20 years ago... The fact that he is looking at actually selling it is really quite tragic for himself and for the neighbourhood," Laroye said.

Khoshaba said he isn't happy about putting the restaurant on the market, but hopes a new owner will maintain the same atmosphere and employees.

"I've got 18 employees, I've been here for 21 years and I feel bad, but I can't do much about it."

He doesn't know what he will do after the restaurant sells.

"I'm just tired of it. I have done it for too long and I don't want to fight another uphill battle with all these different pressures on the business," said Khoshaba.

According to Laroye, businesses across Vancouver are having similar problems.

"It's impacting the places that they [customers] like to go and frequent and make their neighbourhoods livable. That they can walk to services and restaurants that they enjoy. This is under siege really in our neighbourhoods and our commercial districts in Vancouver."

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