02/18/2013 02:00 EST | Updated 04/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Pidgin Owner Defends Controversial New Vancouver Restaurant


Demonstrators have been protesting outside Pidgin for two weeks, claiming the new high-end restaurant is a symbol of gentrification in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Pidgin is located across the street from Pigeon Park on Carrall Street, a notorious drug-dealing landmark and makeshift home for many of the area’s most troubled residents.

Protesters say the restaurant is too expensive for local residents to enjoy. Many would prefer to see the location used for housing.

Co-owner Brandon Grossutti says protesters have vandalized the building and antagonized customers, videotaping and photographing patrons, sometimes yelling "shame" or other insults.

"The frustrating part for me is, when we opened up down there, it really was about being part of the community. We've worked with a lot of services down there, a lot of the groups down there," he said.

East meets West

Grossutti says they chose the name for the restaurant because it represents two different cultures coming together to communicate with each other.

"This is where East meets West in the city. There's always been a divide between East and West and certainly more of a political divide in Vancouver.

"We thought this was an opportunity for these two parts of the city to be able to come together."

Grossutti says they've hired people from the Downtown Eastside and done their best to integrate with the neighbourhood. But people are rising up against them without taking a look at what they're all about.

"We've got to find a way to be able to say how do we work together to make this a better neighbourhood?" he said.

"Rather than take this effort and all this passion against us, how do we actually draw everyone in the conversation?"

The restaurant plans to implement donation programs in which all proceeds will go to charities selected by restaurant patrons and Downtown Eastside residents and create food programs for the local community.

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