Life is slowly returning to Whistler Village Square with the anticipated openings of the Amsterdam Café, La Bocca and La Brasserie.
All three restaurants have been closed since a faulty electric soup kettle caused an explosion and small fire at La Bocca’s kitchen on Oct. 7. Three people were hurt in the explosion and the incident closed down all three venues, as well as Maxx Fish nightclub.
La Bocca and La Brasserie are scheduled to open Nov. 27, in time for the American Thanksgiving weekend, while the Amsterdam, which shares a kitchen with the restaurants, is open and serving drinks as of last Friday (Nov. 21).
Maxx Fish has been open since Nov. 14 after attempting to open a week earlier, against the wishes of the Whistler Fire Department.
Aki Kaltenbach, business manager for all the aforementioned businesses, told Pique that it took “perseverance” to convince the fire department and Whistler’s building department to allow Maxx Fish to open.
“They don’t have anything to do with each other,” she said, referring to Maxx Fish and the restaurants affected by the blast.
“Provided we had approval from the electrical inspector we were able to open, but it was only through a lot of back and forth. First they said the entire building was unsafe, but yet, all the other businesses, all the suites were fine. It was a bit hypocritical, really.”
Rob Whitton, chief of the Whistler Fire Department, said Maxx Fish was only allowed to open after receiving approval from the province’s electrical inspector. But electricity, he said, wasn’t the only issue that forced Maxx Fish to close.
“There was a number of issues that they had to deal with,” he said. “(There was) an outstanding building permit that they’ve never closed out, they’ve made some adjustments to the building that were not made under the original permit.”
The building’s electrical system was “substandard”, according to Whitton.
“It wasn’t to code,” he said. “When the electrical inspector had them do a complete review to the entire Fitzsimmons building, there was over 140 deficiencies found. A lot of that is in the restaurant and the nightclub area, and that poses a significant threat to public safety.”
Whitton said the Amsterdam, La Bocca and La Brasserie are still unable to provide food services because they’re unable to use the shared kitchen.
“They’re going to have to do cleanup from a health perspective,” he said. “They’ve dropped the ceiling down and it was damaged in the incident, so they’ll have to replace that, they’ll have to repair the damage to the floor.
“I imagine some of their equipment was damaged so they’ll have to replace that as well, and there’s also some issues surrounding construction.”
Kaltenbach, however, said that all necessary repairs to the kitchen have been completed, though business owners and employees were only allowed to enter it recently.
“We were only allowed back into our kitchen… two weeks ago I guess is accurate,” she said.
Kaltenbach estimates that the closure of the restaurants has robbed them of a quarter of their staff, but she did not give an exact number.
“During the low season we employ just over 100 people,” she said.
Maxx Fish staffers were also affected by the closure, but Kaltenbach said most came back to work.
“Nobody was prepared for it,” she said. “Already, with the economic downturn, no job, no money coming in, it’s not like they could go elsewhere for work because it was the slowest time of the season.”
The Hot Buns Bakery located around the corner from La Brasserie has also been closed. Kaltenbach said her company’s focus is currently on opening Amsterdam, La Bocca and La Brasserie, but she did not provide an opening date for Hot Buns.