A restaurant on western Vancouver Island shuttered by fire is set to reopen when it takes over an existing eatery at a nearby resort, in a move some claim has left them unexpectedly unemployed.
Shelter Restaurant in Tofino, which closed in December after flames ravaged the building, is anticipated to open in early spring in a new venue — the now-former 1909 Kitchen and Bar space at Tofino Resort and Marina.
“Tofino Resort and Marina has leased the former 1909 Kitchen and Bar space to Shelter Group, which plans to offer a revitalized food and beverage facility for our community, guests, and visitors,” states a post on the resort’s website.
“We anticipate the new space will be open at Tofino Resort and Marina in early spring, stay tuned for updates,” it added, noting staff will “be in touch” with guests who already have reservations at 1909.
Early in the morning on Dec. 22, 2022, giant flames engulfed Shelter on Campbell Street, leaving it completely destroyed, fire crews told CHEK News at the time.
The restaurant’s staff took to social media later that day saying they were grateful for the community support and relieved no one was injured in the fire, adding in a follow-up post, “We look forward to seeing everyone again in the future.”
Yet, as Shelter makes a comeback, staff at 1909 say they’ve been let go.
On Monday, a post to a local Facebook group stated, “Tofino Resort and Marina has just fired all (food and beverage) employees. If anyone knows who is hiring or who has staff (accommodations) please reach out.”
It continued, “The whole team is unemployed and out of housing. Let’s stick together as a community and help those who have been affected.”
CHEK News reached out to Tofino Resort for comment but did not hear back.
One now-former 1909 employee, who wants to remain anonymous, says the firing, or termination, came as a shock to them and their past colleagues. They say while they’ve been able to find a new job, others haven’t.
“Basically, there’s a seasonal closure every year just to do some maintenance around the restaurant. Our anticipated reopening day was Feb. 9, so about a week ago, on Jan. 31, they emailed saying the reopening day would be pushed back one week, meaning the anticipated reopening day would now be Feb. 16,” they told CHEK News Wednesday.
“So, in the meantime, everybody was spending as if we’d be coming back to full-time employment.”
But in an impromptu Feb. 6 meeting, staff were informed of the termination and that the 1909 space would be leased out to another restaurant in town, meaning “they’d be bringing in their management, their back-of-house team, their front-of-house team, replacing ours,” according to the past employee, who worked as a server.
“The big issue is the majority of people who got terminated, their housing is tied to the workplace as well. It affects everyone differently. It’s quite an ordeal.”
They say Tofino Resort management did provide severance depending on length of employment. More information regarding B.C. job termination guidelines is here.
In September, the resort was caught up in controversy following alleged “highly inappropriate behaviour” linked to an annual fishing tournament called “Race For the Blue,” which was held at the facility and subsequently cancelled.
At the time, management said they were providing staff with support, including co-owner Andrew Purdey who told CHEK News he was looking to find out more information about what allegedly happened.
“We have brought in an interim manager and independent counsellor and continue to take steps to ensure the absolute well-being of our team,” read another post on the resort’s website, which can still be found here.
Following the “behaviour,” some staff reportedly walked out and allegedly left a note saying, “We don’t tolerate sexual or any form of harassment in the workplace or any place.”
On Tuesday, Const. Alex Berube, spokesperson for Island District RCMP, told CHEK News there was no update to previous police statements, meaning no recommended charges stemmed from the event.