UPDATE: Restaurateur hopes to open again in new location after sudden closure

Gary
Gary Kean
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Cathy (Thy) Nguyen places a box of food removed from her restaurant, Pho Vietnam, into her vehicle Monday afternoon.

It was as cold as an icebox inside 27 Humber Road  Monday afternoon, but Cathy (Thy) Nguyen was still wondering what she was going to do with the last few boxes of food before it all spoils.

Nguyen is the owner of Pho Vietnam, a restaurant she opened in Corner Brook this past fall after she moved to the city from Saskatchewan.

The restaurant had been getting rave reviews from those who ate there. After a government inspector ordered electricity cut to the property this past Friday, many of those loyal customers have been doing what they can to help Nguyen deal with the unexpected and sudden closure of her business.

Last Thursday, a group of five inspectors — two provincial government electrical inspectors from Service NL, two representatives from the Corner Brook Fire Department and one municipal building inspector from the City of Corner Brook’s department of community services — paid a visit to the building and conducted an inspection of its electrical systems.

Nguyen, who rented the space in which she ran Pho Vietnam, said she was told there was an issue with the electrical system, but was not told power would be cut off the next day.

On Friday afternoon, she spoke with her landlord and was assured everything would be fine. At around 6:30 p.m. Friday, as Nguyen was busy serving a dining room full of customers, she was given notice the electricity would be cut off in two hours.

Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who speaks broken English, said she was shocked to learn her restaurant had to close.

“If (the inspectors) have trouble, everybody (should) let me and (the) owner know, maybe one week (of notice before turning power off) ... I don’t think only one day (was sufficient notice),” said Nguyen.

The decision to cut electricity off was made by the provincial electrical inspectors. Nguyen said it was the power company that informed her, but Service NL told The Western Star she was told by one of their inspectors.

Besides the restaurant, the power was cut to five residential units located in the same building. The eight people living in the building have all had to vacate the premises.

According to Service NL, which issued an emailed statement to The Western Star about the building Monday afternoon, the inspection was done at the request of the City of Corner Brook.

“This inspection determined that there were significant concerns and issues with the electrical system,” read the prepared statement from the provincial government. “An order was issued on Friday, Feb. 7 to the owner stating that the building needs electrical work in order to bring it up to the appropriate codes.”

Service NL said the condition of the electrical system in the building could potentially pose a threat of electric shock and possibly cause a fire, endangering the lives of those who work and live in the building.

“This decision was not taken lightly as we recognize that this order impacts on the lives of those in the building; however, the risk to the lives of those working and living there is too great due to the risk posed by the deficiencies to the electrical system identified during the inspection,” continued the emailed statement.

The City of Corner Brook said it asked for the inspection after receiving a complaint about the building and deferred all other comment to Service NL.

The restaurant had been so busy that Nguyen was preparing some food items as far out as a week in advance. The sudden shutdown left her little time to figure out a plan for all of the refrigerated and frozen food she had in stock.

In a prepared release, the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade said it’s understandable if action was required immediately to ensure the safety of residents and customers if the building was in violation of safety standards, but added Nguyen should have been given proper notification.

“We understand that there was a lack of prior notification and adequate perparation time shown to Cathy Nguyen in this abrupt closure, contradicting our persona of a business friendly community,” the release states. “It is inappropriate to shut down a business with no prior notification to allow for necessary arrangements to be made to allow for the continued viability of the business.”

Luckily, some loyal customers who have since become friends with Nguyen have offered her fridge and freezer space for much of her product and have been helping her move it.

Jerry George was among those patrons who have become friends with Nguyen because of her food. Just last week, he and some other of Nguyen’s newfound friends were together to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

George is also one of those assisting Nguyen save her food products the past several days.

“When she faced this, she got in touch with us and we pitched in to see what we could do to help out,” said George.

George said it is hard to argue against the building posing a safety hazard for Nguyen and the other tenants, but also thought the short notice could have been handled better.

“To give any business two hours notice that you were going to be shut down and not being able to try and work with them in some way in order to mitigate the impact, from an expense point of view, I dont think was done right,” he said.

Nguyen said she has had customers from St. John’s tell her she should go to the capital city and open up. While she may consider that in the future, she said she wants to stay in Corner Brook and hopes to open a new location.

George hopes she stays too and that she overcomes this situation with some help from her friends.

“Her friends are working towards trying to see whether or not we can find a solution for her so that she is able to remain in the community,” said George.

Twitter: WS_GaryKean

*****

(Earlier version)

The owner of a new restaurant in Corner Brook is looking for a new location after her business had to suddenly cease operations this past Friday.

Cathy (Thy) Nguyen is a Vietnamese immigrant who came to Corner Brook from Saskatchewan to open the restaurant, Pho Vietnam, at 27 Humber Road last fall.

Nguyen was enjoying success for the first few months she was open, with a steadily growing clientele of repeat customers.

She had several people in her restaurant enjoying her Vietnamese cuisine early Friday evening when a crew from Newfoundland Power showed up to inform her that they would be cutting electricity to the building in just two hours.

The night before, said Nguyen, a group of seven inspectors visited the restaurant and informed her there were issues with the building’s electrical system. However, she said she was never given any indication the power would get cut off the next day.

Nguyen rents the space in the building, which also contains apartments. She said the owner of the building had told her Friday afternoon that Nguyen and her business had nothing to worry about.

Losing power unexpectedly meant all of the food Nguyen had prepared and had stored in her refrigerators and freezers was in jeopardy of spoiling.

Many of her friends — mostly from her loyal customer base — have been scrambling ever since to find freezer and fridge space for the food, but some of it will either spoil or have to be donated to charitable causes.

Nguyen is hoping to open up somewhere else but has no idea where that will be since she has not had adequate time to look for a new location.

The City of Corner Brook confirmed it sent three of its personnel, including two representatives from the Corner Brook Fire Department and one building inspector from the department of community services, to join two provincial government electrical systems inspectors for an inspection of the building.

“The City of Corner Brook received a formal complaint about a property on Humber Road last week," read an official statement from the City of Corner Brook. "Due to the nature of the complaint, the city carried out a joint inspection with the provincial electrical inspector."

The city said any further inquiries should be directed to the provincial electrical inspector. The Western Star is awaiting a response from the province.

 

 

 

Organizations: Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Saskatchewan, 27 Humber Road

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • concerned
    February 17, 2014 - 08:19

    same old bunch at city hall. corner brook is domed no one to lead us.thats why some family are thinking of moving to deer lake and Pasadena.

  • vk
    February 15, 2014 - 15:54

    Chi Thy. Please don't move. I am Viet like you. It's hard to open a restaurant and even harder to have loyal customers like you do. Serve them the best Viet foods you ever make.

  • Hans
    February 11, 2014 - 22:28

    Honestly, immigrants do not want to move to the province of Newfoundland because the local people there are of the most inbred, uneducated, racist and unaware type. Every educated, hardworking immigrant / person of color that resides, slaves away and provides his unappreciated service to this province should leave. Leave those backward people to themselves and we will see how the destroy themselves.

  • Withheld
    February 11, 2014 - 06:55

    I am appalled at how the City of Corner Brook and the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade have reacted to this matter. Ethnic-based restaurants, like Pho Vietnam, are desperately lacking in this community. This one had excellent food at affordable prices and appealed especially to the university crowd. What sort of signal is their responses sending to others who might want to locate here, whether students or small businesses? This has been very badly handled. It also sends a clear signal that Corner Brook really isn't interested in welcoming you - despite the public relations rhetoric. A sad commentary, indeed.

    • Sandra
      February 11, 2014 - 08:51

      The signal it sends to people is that they should find a reputable place to establish their business by doing due diligence to ensure the building meets the standards required for safe operation. In this case, Ms. Nguyen probably didn't know any better, having come from a third world country. I find it hard to fault the inspectors for acting to PROTECT a person who was apparently being taken advantage of by a greedy landlord. It's a miracle no one was electrocuted or the place didn't burn to the ground, from what the inspectors said in this article. Also, I saw this woman on television and it's clear her grasp of English is minimal at best. While I'm sure she's an intelligent person, I suspect the language barrier played a role in the lack of notice. I also note from the TV interview that the LANDLORD told her the inspection was just an annual routine and she had nothing to worry about. Why isn't anyone heaping criticism on her? Looks to me like she was taking full advantage of a person who was naive in the ways of western business.

    • hillbillysnotus
      February 13, 2014 - 11:50

      sandra, before you make a stupid comment of Vietnam being a third world country, use the internet to see their capital city. so much bigger and better than anything nl has ever built, all after a devastating war. what is nl`s excuse for the capital you call a city

  • Withheld
    February 11, 2014 - 06:54

    I am appalled at how the City of Corner Brook and the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade have reacted to this matter. Ethnic-based restaurants, like Pho Vietnam, are desperately lacking in this community. This one had excellent food at affordable prices and appealed especially to the university crowd. What sort of signal is their responses sending to others who might want to locate here, whether students or small businesses? This has been very badly handled. It also sends a clear signal that Corner Brook really isn't interested in welcoming you - despite the public relations rhetoric. A sad commentary, indeed.

  • Withheld
    February 11, 2014 - 06:53

    I am appalled at how the City of Corner Brook and the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade have reacted to this matter. Ethnic-based restaurants, like Pho Vietnam, are desperately lacking in this community. This one had excellent food at affordable prices and appealed especially to the university crowd. What sort of signal is their responses sending to others who might want to locate here, whether students or small businesses? This has been very badly handled. It also sends a clear signal that Corner Brook really isn't interested in welcoming you - despite the public relations rhetoric. A sad commentary, indeed.

  • Jack
    February 11, 2014 - 06:38

    In light of Charles Pender and Corner Brook City Council making a promise to improve the city's dismal business climate, but then turn around and make things worse after wrongfully closing Pho Vietnam, it seem to me that Charles Pender and his City Council lied to Corner Brookers for the last time. Pender already lied about the Poll Tax as he decided to keep it in a recent budget, he lied about improving the City's Public Transit Service, and now he lied about improving the city's business climate after he unlawfully closed Cathy Nguyen's Pho Vietnam without reasonable notice. In light of the Cathy Nguyen snub, the City of Corner Brook needs to implement a policy giving businesses ordered to be closed reasonable notice, meaning not two hours, but at least one week so that proper arrangements are made. In the meantime, if Cathy wanted to restart the Pho Vietnam, she should look at West Street as there are many available spots there.

  • JM
    February 11, 2014 - 05:59

    In order to open a restaurant you need a permit. It's unfortunate she has to suffer from others no correctly doing their jobs. Another reason why Corner Brook is so tough to do business in.

  • Kenny
    February 11, 2014 - 04:02

    Now if our well paid inspectors went into all the businesses and homes in Corner Brook, the place would be virtually shut down, and many homeless?

  • Kenny
    February 11, 2014 - 04:01

    Now if our well paid inspectors went into all the businesses and homes in Corner Brook, the place would be virtually shut down, and many homeless?

  • Keiren Butt
    February 10, 2014 - 23:08

    I have never been to this restaurant but from what i have read in this article it is a good food establishment with a very hard working lady owner. Maybe i am reading this wrong,but i do believe it said the City of Corner Brook okayed a permit to operate last fall .I am just wondering how the City could have issued a permit to operate and then about 6 months later closed them down because the premises were unfit. Didn't the City do an inspection of the premises before they issued the permit?If they didn't,why not?It seems that someone at City Hall is not doing their job. I don't know who is responsible for this miscarriage of justice on this young lady, but i feel it is time for an evaluation of the department that issues permits at Corner Brook City Hall.

    • Sandra
      February 11, 2014 - 12:57

      The article clearly says the decision to shut down the building was made by the province, not the city. The article DOES NOT say the city issued any kind of permits.

  • Peter Rowsell
    February 10, 2014 - 21:08

    When will these foreign people realize that if they are hard working & contribute in society our 3 levels of gov't don't want them here? Our govts only want immigrants who are thieves or involved with terrorism or organized crime. I mean really, two hours notice!

    • george p b
      February 10, 2014 - 21:42

      Peter--get a grip!!!! First, she is generating jobs eh??? Second, her profits stay in town & not go to some Toronto conglomerate. Finally & most important, her customers are pitching in to help her. Kudos to all those who reached out. This woman came from Viet Nam & has lived in Saskatchewan Thus Newfoundland weather is not as cold. I hope she does not move to St John's for a worse climate? However, safety comes first...and Corner Brook is lucky to have such vigilant electrical inspectors. As has been pointed out Peter, would you rather an fire or explosion & call negligence???

  • humber
    February 10, 2014 - 18:23

    sorry but the least of the worry should be the restaurant...there are people that rent apartment and rooms in that building.. what are they going to do with nowhere to live

  • jenna foulds
    February 10, 2014 - 16:30

    So sad:( Definitely some of the best food in CB. Good luck Thy!!!

  • Chris
    February 10, 2014 - 15:31

    Some of the best ethnic cuisine I've found anywhere in the province. I sincerely hope the owner is able to find a more suitable location. Looking forward to eating here again.

  • Sandra
    February 10, 2014 - 15:03

    So the inspectors went in on Thursday but she didn't have any indication the power would be cut until the next day? I'm guessing that's because it took the inspectors that long to go through the proper channels to have the decision to cut the power approved, otherwise they would have done it on Thursday when they were there. I feel bad for this person, but it's no secret that building had issues. I'm guessing they don't just shut a place down on two hours notice unless there are some serious safety issues, and since they were electrical inspectors, I would imagine they were worried the place could burn to the ground over the weekend. If that happened, every one of you would be screaming about why it was allowed to remain open if there were such dire issues...

  • marilee pittman
    February 10, 2014 - 14:58

    This location was not a good one. There is always garbage piled sky high outside. And as I understand it, the place houses a transient population. I have heard great things about the restaurant, but would not eat there. I do hope Ms Nguyen finds a more suitable location.

    • Llew
      February 10, 2014 - 18:02

      Yeah, maybe it'll be for the best as there's a lot of delicate people who can't look past the fact of the overgrown backyard, house next door, trash outside (from 8 people). I'm sure it was all conveyed in the food and the Mamateek/Aroma's/JungleJim's is cleaner than a microchip laboratory.

    • Llew
      February 10, 2014 - 18:04

      Please don't listen to those people encouraging you to move to St. John's!! We have so little here in Corner Brook that we really don't want to take a step back towards only being excited for those couple of days per year we get to the capital city :(

  • Hungry
    February 10, 2014 - 14:44

    Best restaurant ever!! I hope this reopens. She could consider the Old Canton Restaurant that was owned by Sonny Tam. Parking isn't the greatest, but maybe she could strike up a deal with Colemans where parking is concerned. :) Just a thought.

  • david
    February 10, 2014 - 14:44

    Ah, Corner Brook! Welcome to all the August cruise ship tourists who are of no good whatsoever. But to all you tax-paying, entrepreneur-in-February types: "This is a raid!"

    • Mr Corner Brook
      February 10, 2014 - 16:42

      blah blah blah.....

    • Llew
      February 10, 2014 - 17:58

      Thanks for your useful comment Mr Corner Brook.