‘Blindsided,’ city not renewing lease of Eau Claire breakfast cafe after 40 years in business

CALGARY — For the past 40 years 1886 Buffalo Cafe has been a staple in Eau Claire, but owners have until April 30 to vacate their century-old building.

“We were devastated, blind-sided, shocked,” said Joanna McLeod, one of the owners.

“We’re a small business but we’re going to be fierce and tireless in our fight to stay open.”

About a month ago, owners found out the city was not going to renew its lease and they were given no opportunity for discussion.

“Little did we know that COVID wasn’t what we had to worry about, the City of Calgary is what we had to worry about,” said McLeod.

The city is moving the building as part of the Eau Claire plaza reconstruction project to preserve its historical significance. The building will eventually be moved to a new location at the north end of the plaza.

The city said the cafe was first informed of the improvement plan in 2017 along with an eventual requirement to terminate their lease. At the time the long-term fixed lease was changed to month-to-month.

“They gave us assurance after assurance they wanted us to be tenants,” said McLeod.

McLeod said in February 2020 she verbally accepted a five year lease with the city. Some language in the agreement needed to be adjusted before it was signed.

Then COVID hit.

“If they had been honest with us at the beginning of the possibility of not being able to continue business in the building itself, we would have maybe made some different decisions.” said McLeod.

McLeod said the city has not explained why they can’t move to the building’s new location.

LEASE TERMINATION NOTICE

The city said it issued the tenant a lease termination notice on February 1, 2021. The city said to assist the tenant with the transition it issued a 90-day notice and did not charge the cafe rent since October 2020. It also tried to find alternative space for the tenant.

“We certainly recognize that this move-out will be significant for this tenant and we will continue to work with them and do what we can within our abilities to facilitate a smooth and timely transition,” said the city.

McLeod said they are now turning to the community for help, launching a petition and letter writing campaign.

“We’re just trying to get as many people involved as possible to share how much this iconic cafe means to them and how much we want to stay and keep serving the community of Calgary.”

McLeod said they will look at relocating, but they don’t have the means for that.

“We could move locations but that building is half of the charm of experiencing the heritage of Calgary. We celebrate it actively and have a museum in our basement to show what Calgary looked like way back when,” said McLeod.

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