Community supports Courtenay restaurant temporarily shuttered by fire

Community supports Courtenay restaurant temporarily shuttered by fire

Atlas Cafe sold more than $3,000 worth of gift cards after reaching out to the community

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The community supports the Courtenay restaurant which has been temporarily closed by fire

Courtenay’s Atlas Cafe has received an influx of support since fire and flooding damaged the restaurant during one of the busiest times of the year. Photo: Provided.

After nearly 28 years of feeding the community with love, a Courtenay restaurant is getting support back tenfold following an unexpected setback during its busiest season.

According to co-owner Sandra Viney, Atlas Cafe has been serving locals and visitors “perfectly stocked breakfasts, lively lunches and inspired dinners” since 1995. It was born out of a desire to bring vegetarian and vegan options to the Comox Valley and was named for the international travel that brought its two owners together.

The kitchen has evolved, but the fan base has remained constant, as evidenced by the “atlasphere” of regulars who showed their support for the business following a fire on Monday night.

Viney said a container of hot towels from the dryer ignited, starting a fire in the restaurant’s coffee station area and melting a plumbing in the ceiling — both preventing the fire from spreading and causing significant water damage.

Viney said they’re still awaiting an estimate, but the beloved coffee shop will be closed until at least past Christmas, meaning multiple party and reservation cancellations.

“I had to call [everyone] who had their reservations completed months ago,” she said. “The one that broke my heart the most was a 90th birthday.”

Additionally, the cafe and its staff, whose hours had already been reduced in the wake of the pandemic, will be unemployed during one of the busiest times of the year.

“This is money-making week for our employees. We have servers that have been with us for 25 years, and 24 years and 18 years…” she said. “And they’ve had so many hits over the last two years.

“Our hearts are breaking for them right now because they’re in limbo and don’t know when we’re going to turn the lights back on.”

Viney said it felt a little “sassy” at the time, but did on Thursday morning while being interviewed about CBC’s unexpected plight On the island On the morning show, she mentioned at the last minute that people who wanted to help could buy gift cards to use once the restaurant reopened.

The community listened. The next day, Viney sold more than $3,000 worth of gift cards. A regular at the restaurant since it opened in 1995 bought a $500 gift certificate and said he knew he’d be spending the money there anyway.

“I feel like I’m in a triage situation in a good way,” she said, laughing. “I see a lot of emails coming in, phones ringing and a lot of people walking through the door even though we’re not on duty.”

Viney said they hire staff just to manage all gift card sales.

“It really brings tears to your eyes,” she said. “We are surrounded by so much love and support from our community. It’s so heartwarming.”

To purchase an Atlas Cafe gift card, visit Viney in person or email [email protected].

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