Owners of burnt down island pub say new business may not reopen due to unfair lease demands
OYSTER RIVER -- Eighteen months after their business was destroyed by fire, the owners of the popular Salmon Point Pub on Vancouver Island still don't know if they'll be back in operation, despite the fact that the building is now being reconstructed.
Jim and Edith Flohr operated the pub for six years next to the Salmon Point Marina, but their operation stopped in the early morning of March 1, 2019 when the pub went up in flames.
The Flohrs strongly believe they were robbed and the building was torched.
"It's not like there was a rag left on the stove or wiring or whatever, somebody actually went in and intentionally set this fire," Jim Flohr told CTV News Tuesday.
He points to the fact the safe, which was inside the building at the time, was open and empty once it was removed from the ashes of the burned down building.
Flohr says he understands RCMP are still investigating and believes they will be conducting polygraph tests, something he says he insisted upon taking three months after the fire.
"Fifteen minutes later I was clear," he said.
Campbell River RCMP spokesperson Const. Maury Tyre says calling it a case of arson would be presumptive until any charges are laid in the case.
"A lot of information has been received in regards to this investigation and the investigation is still very much active and controlled by the major crimes unit," said Tyre.
Tyre did acknowledge that it was a devastating situation for everyone involved.
"When we are looking at that fire and what happened down there, it is definitely extremely upsetting – obviously for the owner of the property and for the staff that worked at the Salmon Point – and guests that came there year after year," he said.
The couple says they were hoping to get back into operation once the pub was rebuilt, but now they are embroiled in a dispute with the owners of the building, Noort Homes, based out of New Westminster.
The Flohrs say they have received a demand letter from the company insisting on $42,797.72 for overdue lease payments. The couple is shocked that they are being asked to pay for lease payments when there was no building to lease.
"How do you pay lease on something that doesn't even exist and you can't earn any money to pay that lease?" said Edith Flohr. "It's just silly."
The couple says the company has also increased the cost of the lease while reducing seating capacity and eliminating necessary onsite storage.
Requests for comment by CTV News to Noort Homes have not been responded to.
The Flohrs say they're also frustrated by demands made by various suppliers for replacement of equipment that was lost in the fire, including Shaw Cable and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
Jim says BCLC went to the couple's bank to try to get $30,000 for equipment replacement costs, and then to the couple's insurance company.
"BCLC went behind our backs and went to our insurance company directly and got their 100 per cent payout and that was totally unfair," said Jim.
"I had no idea that BCLC was so hard up for cash that they had to come after two little people like us for their full amount instead of trying to work with us."
He believes the companies should be able to get some compensation but because the fire may be arson there should be some leniency.
The lottery corporation says it acknowledges the hardship the unfortunate event has placed on the business owners but says that BCLC lottery retailers are independent businesses and the agreement stipulates that retailers must maintain sufficient insurance to cover the replacement cost of all equipment and tickets located at retail sites.
Overall, the Flohrs say the worst part of their situation is not being able to connect with their customers and staff.
"We just generally miss the interaction of staff and friends," said Jim.