Mario Loscerbo’s business is in a meltdown, and he says he wants to sue Vanoc and the City of Vancouver.
When the 2010 Olympic event was still quite distant in the horizon, recalled the president of Mario’s Gelati Inc., organizers told him to expect his cash registers to be ringing nonstop when the games come.
Located at 88 East 1st Avenue at the corner of Quebec Street, Loscerbo’s ice cream shop and manufacturing centre is directly across the eastern edge of the Olympic Village. Indeed, it looked like a perfect location.
Besides, Mario’s Gelati is a popular product. It has been voted as the best gelato in town for the last three years by readers in the Georgia Straight’s Best of Vancouver editions since 2007.
But sometime in March last year, construction crews started tearing up Loscerbo’s street, shutting out traffic and making it difficult for customers to drop by and pick up bulk orders.
Then workers began digging up his sidewalk, making it quite impossible for his walk-in clients to come along for their sweet treats.
When Loscerbo looked at his books by the end of his fiscal year on September 30, 2009, he found out that his sales had dropped by over $1 million.
“Never in history since the conception of the business [did it] ever, ever went down,” Loscerbo, who’s been in gelato business for over 30 years, told the Straight on February 3. “Never!”
He also claimed that crews damaged a portion of his neon sign and cracked some decorative glass cubes on the wall of his building.
The construction activities on the street were finished in September last year. However, Loscerbo’s woes are not over.
Olympic security officials have recently started barricading portions of East 1st Avenue across from the Athlete’s Village.
According to Loscerbo, it willd have been three weeks on Friday (February 5) since concrete barriers and chain link fences came up in front of his shop.
Access to his place was also closed off from Ontario Street in the west by a fence, while private guards and police have restricted pedestrian traffic on a portion of Quebec Street at the side of his building.
“I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own home,” he said. “That’s the way I feel right now.”
When the Straight approached the ice cream shop on foot from the direction of the west side of Quebec Street, a guard said that it was off-limits to pedestrians. Another guard allowed access only when informed that the destination was just Mario’s Gelati on the corner of East 1st Avenue and Quebec Street.
Loscerbo also related that a foreign country, which he didn’t want to identify, had previously booked the banquet hall on the top storey of his building for the duration of the 2010 Games for meals, parties, and other events.
“After they put up a deposit and signed a contract, the party that was involved walked away because they found out that they were in a red zone,” he said.
That contract could have brought in about $500,000 in revenues for the Italian émigré who learned the art of ice cream making from his grandfather and father.
In the last several days, he has laid off four employees. He said that he may have to close the ice cream shop until the Games are done.
Loscerbo said that his lawyer had earlier informed Vanoc and City of Vancouver representatives about his plan to file a case in court, hoping that a remedy can be agreed upon.
However, according to Loscerbo, he has received no response.
“At this point I have no other choice myself but to file and go forward,” Loscerbo said.
At the ice cream shop late in the day on February 3, Naomi Nassisi stood behind a long glass counter filled with tubs and tubs of ice cream. She had served only five or six customers over the previous few hours.
“As you can see, it’s pretty much empty,” Nassisi told the Straight, managing only a small smile as she looked at the empty tables and chairs at the store.
Nassisi said that it usually takes two people to manage the counter but since the fences came up and the customers began disappearing, one may be all that's needed.