A popular barbecue restaurant in Fort Irwin is being forced to close due to a 300% rent increase.
Till Death BBQ was recently informed of the increase by their landlord, from $1,500 per month, up to a staggering $6,000 per month.
They have two weeks to vacate the premises.
Owners Joy and Shannon Warner were shocked when they received the rental increase notice for their commercial space, which is not protected by the Residential Tenancies Act.
“We called this place home for almost two years,” said Joy. “We have displaced our family, drove four hours a day in all weather, just to have our dreams shattered.”
Till Death BBQ was founded by the Warner’s in 2017, after they catered their own wedding. The wedding’s theme “Till Death” included live cooking over fire pits.
This sparked an idea for the newlyweds, who decided to offer affordable food catering for others on their special day.
The operation began with a borrowed barbecue, and Till Death BBQ quickly became one of the top caterers in the Peterborough area, winning multiple awards and catering a multitude of events.
The Warner’s invested their earnings into scaling the business, by building their own barbecue trailer and purchasing a food truck. In the process, they weathered the pandemic, in one of the hardest hit industries.
In 2021, the Warner’s dream of opening a restaurant became a reality, when they found suitable restaurant space for rent in the Haliburton area.
“Unfortunately the month we were supposed to move in my husband was involved in a freak accident that almost took his life and we lost everything,” said Joy. “We started this restaurant with about 10 cents, knowing if we didn’t have a good weekend we were done. We did it, and we kept going every week the best we could.”
Despite the initial hardships, Till Death BBQ has endeared themselves with locals, becoming engrained in the community as a neighbourhood favourite.
“From the moment we announced our opening here in beautiful Fort Irwin, we had messages coming in from the amazing community,” said Joy. “This was their spot to hang out, get together, catch up, and leave happy.”
Since the announcement of their upcoming closure, there has been an outpouring of support, including promises to boycott any new business that may take over the location.
“I am a loyal customer and I can’t say enough great things about your family and your food,” said Shannon Buchanan-Mccracken, in response to a post on Facebook. “You have created a community of customers and I hope to enjoy your food and friendship for years to come.”
Added Kim Lockyer MacDonald: “My heart is heavy today! I have watched you build this dream from the ground up, turn it into reality with a lot of blood, sweat and tears! You dreamt it, built it and now a greedy landlord destroys it!”
The Warner’s have attempted to negotiate with their landlord, who owns several properties in the area, but were unsuccessful.
Joy and Shannon are actively looking for another commercial space to rent in Haliburton.