West End businesses fear losing another summer after 2018 fire
VANCOUVER -- Business owners at a West End building in Vancouver that caught fire in 2018 are still waiting for permits from city hall to start repairs.
“The wait is killing us," said Enrique Vertti as he watched potential customers walk by the closed doors of his bike shop.
Vertti’s business, Bikes and Blades Rentals, is in danger of being shut down for a second straight summer after it was ravaged by fire.
The fire happened on Dec. 23 2018 and damaged several units in the building that stands on the corner of Alberni and Denman streets.
Fourteen months later, nothing has been fixed, and all the businesses on the busy street corner are seeing thousands of dollars walk by every day.
Vertti says the property owner has applied twice for permits to begin repairs, but both were denied.
The city says an application first submitted in November 2019 was "inconsistent with the approved use of the building."
Once amended in January, a city inspector found the "permit application under-represented the scale of the work involved to return this building to use," according to a statement from Jessie Adcock, general manager of development, buildings and licensing for the city.
“Given the extensive nature of the damage, we want to assure the safety of this building before it is permitted to re-open," she added.
The city did not mention if it was possible to expedite the process to help the struggling business owners, adding it is working with the property owner’s architect.
"It's taking too long. We need to get back to work,” Vertti argued. “We just want to go back to work. That’s all."
All the small businesses are locally owned.
“This has affected my health," said Peter Pourseid, who has operated as a locksmith on the block for 25 years.
He said the stress of having no income has made his Parkinson’s disease worse.
"If we don't come back in the next three to four months, we will be bankrupt,” Vertti said. “We are 10 families who will lose everything."
He said the consequence of not opening in time for summer may be never opening again.