Business nails the disenfranchised

Keith Jacobsen wanted to get rid of the “undesirables” loitering outside his business. So the owner of Coasters and the 202 off sales…

Keith Jacobsen wanted to get rid of the “undesirables” loitering outside his business.

So the owner of Coasters and the 202 off sales got some boards, hammered a slew of nails into them and tacked them — pointy side up — on parking barriers that were acting as benches.

“People were out there bumming money, harassing the clientele and leaving syringes behind,” said Jacobsen, who found three needles last week.

“They were a scar on the face of the hotel and the business.”

Jacobsen, who took over the bar and off sales in April, “was fed up.”

A little more than a week ago, he took matters into his own hands and hammered in the nails.

“It was the easiest deterrent — to put the spikes in,” he said.

“And it’s worked fantastically.”

Jacobsen knows he could be sued if someone hurt themselves on the nails.

But the actual benefits outweigh the potential costs, he said.

Last weekend was the busiest weekend of the summer at the off sales, said Jacobsen.

“We had lots of people coming in who said they had come back because there was nobody loitering outside.

“I’d say 90 per cent of our customers are positive about it.”

But some local residents are horrified.

“When I saw those nails I almost puked,” said concerned citizen Suzanne de la Barre.

“Anyone could slip and fall on those.

“And what does it say about the way we deal with people in our community who are disenfranchised?”

There is a problem at the off sales, said de la Barre, who heard one of the women that worked there was accosted.

“But if they don’t want people loitering, the only solution shouldn’t be something that will hurt people,” she said.

“And what does it say to tourists and passersby, who see that?”

The same people who are drinking at Coasters and spending money at the off sales are the ones getting hurt, she added.

“And there’s something sick about that.”

Although Jacobsen has sold booze to some of the people causing trouble outside, it’s unusual, he said.

“Sometimes they buy from us,” he said.

“But they are usually already intoxicated and our policy is not to sell to the intoxicated.”

Jacobsen thought about playing elevator music to deter the “undesirables,” but remembered when the Qwanlin Mall did that.

“I hated it,” he said.

“It was getting rid of me too.”

The other option was to hire a bouncer to stand out there during business hours, he said.

But that would have cost roughly $150 a day.

The boards and nails had a one-time cost of $12 and only took an hours’ work, said Jacobsen.

The spiky boards don’t seem to be breaking any city bylaws, said acting city manager Robert Fendrick on Tuesday.

“If there are new buildings or structures, we have a building inspector who looks at them.

“And if it’s a maintenance issue with a dilapidated building then bylaw comes.

“But putting nails on a parking barrier — I don’t know where that falls.”

It doesn’t really fall into anyone’s jurisdiction, said Fendrick, who spoke about it with city bylaw manager John Taylor.

“We’re not saying it’s OK with the city; there’s just nothing in the maintenance bylaw that speaks to this directly.”

Last week, the RCMP came by and took pictures of the spiky parking barriers, said Jacobsen.

“They said they were going to assess it and get back to me.”

On the weekend, Jacobsen went out and turned the boards over, so the heads of the nails stick out, rather than the sharper points.

“It’s still uncomfortable, but a little less of a risk,” he said.

Since he took over in April, Jacobsen and his bar manager Erika Oppen have been trying to clean the place up.

“We are trying to change the image outside our establishment,” said Oppen, who had to call the RCMP three times on Saturday.

“And it wasn’t because of customers in the bar,” she said.

“It was people outside scaring people away.”

Oppen has been yelled at, spit on and threatened.

“One of our 70-year-old employees used to have to chase them away with a broom,” she said.

This isn’t a problem that’s unique to the 202, said Jacobsen, citing troubles on Main Street.

“And we’re not solving the problem,” added Oppen.

“We’re just moving it.”