October 22, 2008
Here in the West End of Vancouver, BC, another blow has been struck against local cultural diversity. The Bojangles Cafe at the intersection of Robson and Denman Streets will be closing at the end of the month. The (not so quiet) rumour is that the coffee giant and cultural icon (read: steamroller) Starbucks will be appropriating the space for one of their many (many, many, etc., etc.) retail shops.
Announced with a small, typed sign in the front window, Bojangles Cafe stated that it would be closing due to “failure to renew its lease”. This quote implies that Bojangles Cafe itself is at fault for its impending closure, which is likely an incomplete, if not misleading, statement.
To get a more inclusive picture of the situation, we must examine the factors behind the Cafe’s failure to renew its lease. Firstly, real estate in the West End is (to put it mildly) pricey, and the demand for retail space in such a high traffic area as Robson Street is enormous. This means that building owners can, and do, maintain and enforce inflated rental costs.
The second and more unnerving factor is Starbucks’ aggressive retail expansion campaign. Knowing the lease was coming up on the space Bojangles currently occupies, the American corporate giant likely made an offer to the building owner that the local company could not hope to compete with.
Hence, Bojangles’ “failure to renew its lease” is more aptly Starbucks’ (continued) success at strong-arming its way into the urban and cultural geography, by way of extinguishing local and independent spirit. Of course, this is just the capitalist, free-market paradigm at work, which we embrace wholeheartedly in this great democracy of ours.