The Poor Creature cafe sits empty at Yukonstruct in Whitehorse on Oct. 17, after the owner took a day off to deal with the news that their lease will not be renewed at the end of the month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukonstruct cafe owner says decision to not renew lease came “out of the blue”

The Poor Creature’s lease ends on Oct. 31. Owner Brioni Connolly said she was expecting a renewal

A Whitehorse vegan cafe owner says she feels blindsided by Yukonstruct’s decision to not renew her lease.

Brioni Connolly has operated The Poor Creature out of Yukonstruct’s building in downtown Whitehorse since November 2018.

Although she signed a one-year lease with an end-date of Oct. 31, 2019, Connolly told the News that she was under the impression that it would be renewed, based on informal conversations she’d had with various staffers about future plans for the cafe.

However, on Oct. 11, Connolly received a letter from Yukonstruct stating that her lease would not be renewed.

“We always had a great relationship and I always held Yukonstruct in high regard up until I was handed that letter on Friday,” she said in an interview Oct. 17. “This came literally out of the blue.”

Connolly said that, to date, Yukonstruct has not provided her reasons as to why it’s choosing to not renew her lease. It has, she said, offered to give her an extension on how soon she must leave the space, but communication has otherwise been limited.

In an emailed statement, Yukonstruct executive director Lana Selbee wrote that the organization understood that “some people have questions about why Yukonstruct decided to not negotiate a new commercial lease agreement with The Poor Creature.”

“We are committed to protecting the privacy of all of our tenants,” the email says. “We hope that people will respect this position and recognize that this is a private and confidential matter that we are not willing to discuss publicly.

“Yukonstruct wants to clarify that The Poor Creature’s lease was not terminated. Their one year lease came to an end and, with a lot of consideration, our board of directors made the difficult decision not to negotiate a new lease. The Poor Creature knows that we are open to extending their time, in order to facilitate their transition.

“We are dedicated to continue to offer a positive and inclusive space and to continue the good work we’ve done in the community over the past 6 years.”

Selbee was not available for a phone interview and also declined via email to answer follow-up questions from the News, adding only that Yukonstruct “has been in communication” with Connolly and “will continue the dialogue with our tenant in private.”

Connolly said she plans on fighting the non-renewal of her lease.

She’s received immense support since she began writing about the situation on The Poor Creature’s Facebook page after receiving the letter Oct. 11, something she said she believes to show that Yukonstruct members weren’t consulted on whether they wanted the cafe to remain in the space.

“I mean, they consulted recently if the membership wanted a bike rack, they consulted on, does the membership want to buy more spoons for the kitchen? But when it came to this and my livelihood and this cafe space that was quite treasured by the Yukonstruct community, they didn’t consult with the membership,” she said.

“I’m finding that really bizarre and I’m not the only one who finds that very strange, so for that reason alone, I feel like it’s important to fight for it.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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