Employees of the restaurant attached to a Victoria hotel — purchased by the province to turn into shelter space and affordable accommodation for the homeless — say they’re hurt by the lack of communication.
Clayton Rourke has been the kitchen supervisor at Redd’s Roadhouse Pub for almost a year. He says he got a call early Friday morning, telling him to look at the news. That’s when he found out the restaurant and the Comfort Inn Hotel, at 3020 Blanshard St., had been sold.
“Everyone is hurt,” he says. “The biggest thing is they’ve put in a lot of time and energy into this building to make it a good place for everyone and it’s not a good feeling when you’ve been backstabbed by the person you’re trying to do this for.”
Rourke says he’s made at least 30 phone calls trying to figure out what’s going on. He tried to call the owner, Nikki Babie — who also owns a clothing line — but could not get a hold of her.
Ryan Smith, food and beverage manager for Redd’s, says that when the pandemic hit, he, like many others in the service industry, was laid off but was assured that he would have a job to return to when it was safe to do so.
“It’s really hard to even think about the next steps, I went from complete job security and trust in my employer and now I don’t have a lot of options,” he says, adding that it’s going to be hard to find work in Victoria when the industry is suffering.
The provincial government spent $18.5 million to acquire the hotel, which will provide approximately 65 rooms of temporary shelter for people living in homeless camps along Topaz Avenue and in Topaz Park. The long-term use of the facility will be determined through community engagement.
“BC Housing is looking forward to bringing many of these workers on as part of our team – they have skills that we’re looking for to help run these temporary accommodations,” BC Housing told Black Press Media in a statemetn. “We are in the process of reaching out to them now.”
Smith says even if there are jobs, he doesn’t feel he would be a good fit.
“I’m not trained or equipped to deal with that community,” he says. “It’s just not my area of expertise.”
Rourke says he’s been in touch with lawyers to try to find the best solution, as well as phoning both Our Place Society and BC Housing, who have partnered to run the hotel, but hasn’t had much luck in getting answers.
“My next steps are finding out as much information as possible,” he says, adding that he’s concerned about the other 100 hotel employees.
Babie could not be reached for comment.