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'Robbed, vandalized, peed on, yelled at': Former Gastown restaurant owners detail neighbourhood conditions to Vancouver mayor

"I stepped over dead people to get to my car. My wife had a dead person laying on the roof of her car."
The interior of the former Bauhaus restaurant in Gastown. Photo: Bauhaus / Facebook

The owners of the critically-acclaimed and now-defunct Bauhaus Restaurant in Gastown have some harsh words for Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart about conditions in the neighbourhood.

Located at the corner of Cordova and Carrall streets in the heart of Gastown, Bauhaus opened in early 2015 and was a fine-dining German restaurant. Ongoing disputes with the landlord forced Bauhaus to close at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. The location has since re-opened and is now a Ukrainian restaurant.

Recently, the Gastown BIA sent out an email about the city's new public safety motion; the motion aims to (among other things) engage local business communities in public safety issues.

Filmmaker and former restaurateur Uwe Boll, the man behind Bauhaus (along with films like Bloodrayne, Blubberella and Rampage: President Down) responded with a letter to local politicians about what he and his wife (co-owner of Bauhaus and fellow producer) experienced while owning a business in the popular neighbourhood.

"We got robbed, vandalized, peed on, yelled at and spit on from homeless and drug addicts for 5 years," writes the outspoken Boll, who shared his letters and responses on the still-active Bauhaus Facebook page. "I stepped over dead people to get to my car. My wife had a dead person laying on the roof of her car."

The letter goes on to suggest that people addicted to drugs are treated better by the city than "anybody else."

"Vancouver is going to shit and Gastown is the epicentre of the disaster," Boll writes.

"The 'poor poor drug addicts' is all the mayor sees," claims former business owner

He goes on to demand the city gets people in the Downtown Eastside community off the street.

"I know you will not because you are unable to HURT THE FEELINGS of the supporters of that shit show," he continues. "You are scared that you get a negative Twitter Storm against you."

While he wants the city to get people off the streets, Boll also alleges that charities housing people are overflowing with money.

"And there is so much money to make with the charities, housing, drugs and policing - that there are maybe 500 to 1000 people living very good from that situation," he claims.

In a response from the city,  city official Laurie MacLean notes some of the housing and policing initiatives the city has worked on, along with policy decisions voted on recently.

Boll, in another Facebook post, indicates he is not happy with the City of Vancouver's response.

"That [the City's] letter doesn’t mention REHAB shows how unbelievable wrong the situation gets handled. The 'poor poor drug addicts' is all the mayor sees," Boll writes. It should be noted that as a health issue, various rehabilitation programs usually involve the province and not-for-profit agencies.

"Vancouver is already shit and people are just daydreaming if they think it's a great city," Boll continues. "It is an expensive shithole [that] needs to get cleaned up. The homeless need to leave. Period."

City leaders 'tiptoeing' around issue of drug addicts in Gastown: restaurant co-owner

He also posted a letter his wife, Natalie, wrote. In it, she also recounts some of the issues they've faced, including the death of a woman who fell on her car from a window above and a man entering the restaurant with an axe.

"We had human feces regularly all over the sidewalk. Our employees were pricked with needles on several occasions bringing the garbage in the back alley and needed to go to the hospital. We had crack pipes and needles in our flower pots on our patio," she writes.

While she takes a less harsh stance on people without homes, she is emphatic about the need to find solutions for those on drugs in the streets.

"But the issue everyone is tiptoeing around is the drug addicts," Natalie writes. "They are so out of that housing will not really solve anything. They can't even function on the street! How can they function in a house?"

Other restaurants left Gastown due to unsafe conditions

In recent months, several restaurants have vacated Gastown. In September 2020, Balila, a casual Middle Eastern restaurant, at 47 West Hastings, announced it was closing not only because of the ongoing pandemic but also because "the conditions of the area are getting wors[e] by the day."

Balila's operators said at the time they "fear for our customers' health and safety as well as [that] of our team members and partners," at the Hastings location, saying the problems are "evident to the naked eye." 

At the time, residents and business owners in the area had been increasingly vocal for several months about the tent city that arose in Strathcona Park following the dismantling of the one at Oppenheimer Park on the Downtown Eastside, as well as the volume of crime in the neighbourhood. Ultimately, the Strathcona Park encampment was dismantled, and both parks were closed to the public.

The City of Vancouver began to re-open Oppenheimer Park to the public in June 2021. Strathcona Park began its re-opening earlier this month.

With additional reporting from Lindsay William-Ross