Lazare Hounnake-Adele brought an experience usually reserved for big cities to Parksville.
The Dark View Restaurant, a dine-in-the-dark experience, has now been open in Parksville for six months. Hounnake-Adele said it’s been a rewarding experience so far, but he’s excited for business to pick up in the summer.
Hounnake-Adele was a server at a similar restaurant in Vancouver, and wanted Vancouver Islanders to have the experience of ‘dining in the dark’. He says the point of the restaurant is for someone to experience what it’s like to be visually impaired.
He hopes visitors will leave the restaurant changed by the experience, and with more empathy and understanding for people who are visually impaired.
“It’s trying to be in the visually impaired person’s shoes for a couple of hours,” he said. “The idea behind this, it’s not just about business, it’s also the awareness for how people can have a better idea of what people with no vision go through.”
Hounnake-Adele, who is completely blind, says a vital part of the experience is a completely pitch-black dining experience. Nothing light-emitting is allowed — no cellphones or watches.
When you get to Dark View, you get to look at the food menu in the foyer outside of the dining room. You place your order in the light and are then guided by Hounnake-Adele into the dining area. Three-course dinners are priced at $45, while two-course dinners are $39.
If you need anything while seated, you’re instructed to call for your server.
“I usually do a little speech for them here before we head to the darkness, just to ensure them that everything is flat, there are no stairs. If they need help, I’m always there for them, you don’t need to remember my name — if you need help just yell, ‘I need help!’” he said. “You have to give them the information, so they can be comfortable.”
Originally he was going to hire more service staff, but Hounnake-Adele said a combination of relatively slow business and a lack of visually-impaired servers made it difficult. For now, he’s the only server at the restaurant.
They’ve cut down to three days a week — Friday to Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. He said the experience so far has been rewarding, and that feedback has been positive, but that summer can’t come quick enough.
The restaurant is located at 731 Island Hwy E in Parksville. For information, call 250-586-2206.