‘Homes not Domes’ protest held outside luxury pop-up restaurant, steps from former camps

The protest follows the City of Toronto’s eviction of homeless people living in tent cities beneath the highway this year

A protester looks into the Dinner with a View setup on April 5.
The $550 Dinner with a View was challenged by anti-poverty activists with a counter event on Friday.  Isabel Terrell/Toronto Observer

For $550, Torontonians can get a fancy meal underneath a highway but not a place to live. Cue the hundreds of protesters who gathered outside a posh dining experience on Friday that opened weeks after homeless encampments were cleared out from the area.

Dinner with a View, a pop-up event that serves meals made by top chefs in heated, human-sized terrariums, opened at The Bentway at 250 Fort York Blvd. on March 28. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) organized a counter event called “Dinner With A View… Of The Rich.”

Protesters carrying signs that read “Homes not Domes” gathered around 6:30 p.m. As OCAP served free meals, some protesters mocked the restaurant-goers, who forked out $550 per dome for the unique experience. The price included $149 to secure the see-through dome and a minimum of four meals priced at $99 each.

Diners were shielded from the OCAP protest by opaque cloth fencing put up around the perimeter of the event. Toronto police officers were also on hand and guarded the entrance of the venue as people entered and exited.

People with the OCAP counter-event were prohibited from getting near the fence, but many held their placards high enough to be seen by diners on the other side. As the protest ensued, metres of black fabric fence were pulled down by protesters.

Entrance of Dinner with a View surrounded by protesters on April 5

Toronto police officers hold back protesters at the entrance of Dinner with a View at The Bentway on Friday. (Isabel Terrell/Toronto Observer)

“While the city is pushing out homeless people, it is willing to put up luxurious dining spectacles,” said Yogi Acharya, organizer of the protest, in an interview with The Toronto Observer.

“That brazenness needs to be challenged,” he said.

The City of Toronto sent eviction notices to at least six homeless encampments across the city in January. The camp around the Gardiner Expressway and Lower Simcoe Street was demolished by city staff on March 13 following a fire inside one of the tents. Long strips beneath the expressway have been used by Toronto’s homeless people throughout prior winters, said Acharya.

Dinner with a View organizers were aware of the OCAP protest prior to Friday, according to a statement. The company said it is “sympathetic” to those affected by the evictions and stressed that it was not involved in the city’s decision to clear the grounds of tents and they weren’t removed to make room for the pop-up event, the statement read.

Dinner with a View will run until May 2. The event is also running in Montreal.

The Bentway is a non-profit organization that transformed a stretch of the Gardiner Expressway from Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street into a free public event space. The City of Toronto is listed as one of the organization’s supporters on its website.

The Bentway refused to comment on Dinner with a View or the protest, which was shared on Facebook. About 4,000 people clicked in support of attending the event.

Crowd of protesters at The Bentway

The crowd of hundreds surrounded Dinner With a View at The Bentway on April 5 for a counter event, which they called Dinner with a View… of the Rich. (Isabel Terrell/Toronto Observer)

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty was founded in 1990 to “ensure people aren’t denied basic entitlements,” according to its website. Protesters were encouraged to email Toronto Mayor John Tory with suggestions for the city’s housing crisis. OCAP also invited the crowd to attend its next event at city hall on April 12. The coalition wants government to prioritize social housing over private development and to see 2,000 new shelter beds in Toronto.

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Posted: Apr 7 2019 9:43 am
Filed under: News