Major rent hikes are pushing another staple out of Mile End — St-Viateur Street patisserie Chez de Gaulle is calling it quits this month after being hit with a rent increase of about 55 percent.
According to Huffington Post Québec, Chez de Gaulle’s rent is rising from $4,200 per month to $6,500, a total of $2,300. The bakery has been open on the corner of Jeanne-Mance and St-Viateur for 13 years.
In a video interview with Huffington Post, bakery owner De Gaulle Helou told the website that staying open would be impossible.
“If I accept the new [rental] conditions, I will go straight into bankruptcy. I can’t make croissants to sell at $4 and eclairs for $10.”
Chez de Gaulle is going to reopen far, far away — Helou says he has secured a space in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, outside Montreal.
Helou places the blame for the rent increase squarely at the feet of his building’s new owners: realtors Shiller Lavy. That firm, headed by landlords Danny Lavy and Stephen Shiller, now owns numerous buildings on St-Viateur, many of which have faced rent increases under Shiller Lavy’s ownership.
Some buildings owned by the firm now house major international retailers, such as fancy yoga mom destination Lululemon and expensive soap shiller Aesop. Others have sat empty — a restaurant space at 75 St-Viateur West has whipped through four tenants since Shiller Lavy purchased it in 2014 (as well as long stretches of time where the building was vacant). Colombian restaurant Mi Corazon called it quits not long after Shiller Lavy took over, while restaurants Socialito and Tucci only managed to stay open in the location for a few months each. Now, Villeray Portuguese restaurant Emilia is preparing to open in the space.
Shiller’s son Brandon is also in on the Mile End commercial property game: he and business partner Jeremy Kornbluth notoriously bought the space that housed café Le Cagibi and increased the rent by 46 percent, forcing that neighbourhood favourite to move to Little Italy. The space has been empty for over a year now.
As Huffington Post notes, firms like Shiller Lavy may not be interested in ensuring that new tenants come into spaces like that of Chez de Gaulle. Commercial development consultant Glenn Castanhera told the publication that the strategy of realtors like Shiller Lavy is to speculate that the property will get more valuable, so they will leave it empty while waiting for a deep-pocketed tenant to come by.
“When you’re a big [property] owner you can leave some locations empty...you can accept a small loss while waiting for a Tim Hortons or a McDonalds or Starbucks who are ready to pay two times the market price.”
Helou put it more bluntly.
“It’s a fiscal game, in effect”.
An employee of the bakery has confirmed that its final day in business will be Tuesday July 16.