By: Kim Regala, Staff Writer
A new pop-up restaurant opens on January 15 in Vancouver that advertises a novel perspective on dining. Organizers of the event call it “Dinner with a View.” For one hour and 45 minutes (and a $200 reservation fee), guests can sit in a plastic bubble located outdoors and indulge in a three-course meal that costs a staggering $110. It boasts a spectacular view of the Vancouver skyline and Lion’s Gate Bridge. What it doesn’t show, however, is how this pricy “experiential” dining hammers in yet another wedge between Vancouver’s rich and the poor, in order to maintain the facade of an extravagant urban lifestyle that only a few people can attain.
Dinner with a View doesn’t explicitly advertise “rich people only” as a requirement, but it’s clear that the restaurant only caters to the upper class — those fortunate enough to be able to spend hundreds of dollars for a single dinner. The pop-up venue is intended to be a limited time, one-of-a-kind dining experience, for consumers in such metropolitan locales as Toronto, Montreal, and now Vancouver. Dinner with a View emphasizes the potential social media recognition its guests can gain from the event. However, promoting the event this way centers it in a socially detached splinter of reality that normalizes temporary “experiences” without acknowledging the disparity and inequality around them.
While the wealthy absolutely have the right to spoil themselves with lavish experiences, it’s worth keeping in mind that Metro Vancouver is already in the grip of economic equality. Regardless of the event’s intention, sequestering the rich in their own bubbles of privilege creates further divides within the region, where accessibility to the venue — and by extension the luxurious Vancouver life — is dependent on the increasingly difficult ability to afford it.
The pop-up fine-dining chain first faced controversy when it opened in Toronto last April. The event was held near an area where many people who were homeless had settled for shelter. Upon learning that their tent encampment had been expelled prior to this event, several members of the community gathered in front of the temporary venue to express their concerns, calling their protest, “Dinner with a View . . . of the rich.” Hosting Dinner with a View in this particular location was especially upsetting for anti-poverty advocates, who have long demanded the construction of shelters in the area.
Dinner with a View isn’t the first time that extravagant endeavours have been prioritized in Vancouver over the interests of the most vulnerable in the community. The city faced similar concerns a decade ago with preparations for the Winter Olympics; street youth were pushed to more dangerous areas of the Downtown Eastside to make room for the occasion. Similarly, neighbourhoods like Chinatown that are filled with so much cultural and community significance are now under threat by urban development. Dinner with a View represents yet another form of gentrification in Vancouver — one that doesn’t even stay long enough to contribute to the city that hosts it.
Events like Dinner with a View put wealthy affairs on a high pedestal, disregarding Vancouver’s growing homeless population in favour of cultivating a false perception of luxurious living in the city. Before Vancouver residents decide to spend hundreds of dollars on this trendy pop-up, perhaps they should try a few unique local restaurants and support the businesses and people who are already in their community.