A Whitehorse business owner says she’s being cut adrift by an organization that’s meant to support entrepreneurs.
Brioni Connolly got a letter on Friday, saying the lease for her café in Yukonstruct’s Whitehorse headquarters won’t be renewed. The letter from Yukonstruct’s executive director says Connolly’s café has to be out by the end of the month — but it doesn’t say why.
“At the moment, I’m just a bit unmoored,” Connolly said. “I think my business is effectively dead.
“This is a place that’s supposed to support entrepreneurship, and foster creativity, and foster the growth of those businesses, and yet they very callously basically kind of throw me out, after a year — knowing what that means to a young business.”
Connolly says moving to a new location is not an option. She has business loans to pay off, and can’t afford to shut down for the time it would take to find and renovate a new space.
Connolly opened the Poor Creature café not long after the Northlight “innovation hub” opened last year as a home for Yukonstruct and cospace, a shared working space. The café occupies an area adjacent to the main entrance, with a small kitchen behind the counter and a few tables.
On Tuesday, the tables were decorated with flowers and hand-written messages of support from customers. “Entrepreneurship in action,” read one.
Noise may have been a factor in Yukonstruct’s decision — but Connolly doesn’t know for sure. She says sound travels through the building, and some cospace members have complained in the past.
But Connolly says she was coming up with solutions, and thought that Yukonstruct was supportive. Then she got the letter about her lease.
‘Not a fit for our space’
A separate letter sent to Yukonstruct members over the weekend informed them of the decision, giving no reason beyond saying “this business is not a fit for our space.”
Lana Selbee, Yukonstruct’s executive director, wouldn’t offer any more than that — but did acknowledge that noise has been an issue in the building.
“I’m not going to comment specifically on the decision, but I can definitely say that we moved a whole bunch of people into one space, and it’s definitely come up over this past year — issues of noise, issues of what’s proper use for the whole space,” Selbee said.
“We’re really trying to work on that as an organization and figure out what works here, what works for our members, what kind of environment are we trying to foster … but I think things are going really well.”
Selbee couldn’t say what Yukonstruct plans to do with the café space.
She said Yukonstruct is willing to give Connolly a bit more time to vacate, if necessary.