The café owner facing eviction from Yukonstruct’s building is alleging she was bullied by a co-space user who joined Yukonstruct’s board months before it decided her lease would not being renewed.
In documents filed to the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 26, Brioni Connolly, owner of The Poor Creature, says that she was “completely surprised and dumbfounded” by the board’s decision, “and at the heavy-handed unfair and opaque process used to reach that decision.”
She also argues that her lease was, in fact, renewed and is valid to Oct. 31, 2020.
The documents were part of her reply to Yukonstruct’s petition seeking a court order to have her evicted, and for her to pay double-rent until she leaves.
The parties have been at odds for weeks over whether The Poor Creature has the right to remain in Yukonstruct’s downtown Whitehorse building.
Yukonstruct says Connolly’s one-year lease for the space expired on Oct. 31 and that she’s now an overholding tenant, while Connolly, who has continued to operate her business, says the lease was renewed.
In an affidavit, Connolly says she rejects “and am insulted by” allegations put forward by Yukonstruct executive director Lana Selbee that Connolly’s child would scream and cry for hours, disturbing members working in the neighbouring co-space.
“We are good parents who care deeply about our son’s wellbeing. We are also decent people who are conscientious and respectful of other people,” the affidavit says. “Also, my business’s brisk success with co-space members belies this assertion.”
Connolly also denies having a bad or tense relationship with Yukonstruct throughout her first year of tenancy, instead describing it as “very friendly.” The affidavit says she went for drinks with Selbee and Yukonstruct operations director Torey Hampson on “numerous” occasions and was even invited to join their bookclub. The two were also regular patrons at the café until shortly before Connolly received the letter informing her the lease was not renewed, according to the affidavit, when they suddenly began shunning her.
Up until then, though, the affidavit says, Selbee and other Yukonstruct staff had been explicitly supportive of The Poor Creature.
“In short, although the term of the lease was one year, it was always my intention and Yukonstruct’s intention that the relationship be mutually beneficially (sic) and long-lasting,” Connolly says in the affidavit.
“Unfortunately, our dealings in this respect lacked formalism, as our relationship became friendly over time.”
According to the affidavit, Connolly had “numerous conversations” with Selbee and Hampson in June and July “to the effect that my lease would be renewed for another year.” Yukonstruct staff were also referring catering contracts to the Poor Creature for events scheduled to take place in November, after her lease would have expired.
“It was made clear to me, both implicitly and explicitly, that the Café would remain in NorthLight,” the affidavit says. “I therefore thought no more of it and did not think it necessary to send an official or written notice.”
However, Connolly alleges she was bullied by a co-space member between February and April, and despite reporting it to the board, nothing was done.
That person joined Yukonstruct’s board at its annual general meeting in July, the affidavit says, and three months later, “the Board voted to kick me out of NorthLight.”
In his outline of argument, Connolly’s lawyer, Vincent Larochelle, wrote that co-space was intended to be a “lively hub, not an austere library,” and that Yukonstruct’s treatment of Connolly has been “irrational” and “illogical.”
The case is expected to be heard in court early next month.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org