Two favourites at the Scotia Square food court have been told to leave. Crombie REIT, which manages the mall, has given Ray’s Lebanese Cuisine and Taste of India until March 31 to vacant the premises.
"They told me yesterday," says Ray Khattar. "I've been here 31 years, and I have never missed a rent payment, not one month."
Ray's had won The Coast's Best of Halifax poll for "Best Falafel" so many times—13 years in a row—that we had to retire the category in 2007.
Khattar says that five months ago mall management came to him and said they had to double his rent. "I said, OK, let's talk," he says. "But nothing. Yesterday, when they told me, they gave me no options. They didn't talk about raising the rent or moving me, nothing."
Today, Khattar seems shell-schocked. He's still serving food for a never-ending line of customers, and we squeeze in a bit more of the interview every time he makes it to the cash register. He says he hasn't had time to think about what to do next, or if he might re-open elsewhere.
A Taste of India was also quite busy with a well-after-lunch crowd, and the owners didn't have time to talk except to confirm that they, too, had been told to leave.
Crombie did not immediately return a call for comment.
Khattar says he was told Crombie is focusing on getting more franchised operations into the food court. That seems to be consistent with recent events: in 2011, PG's was evicted in order to reconfigure the food court to accommodate a Tim Hortons outlet. Last week, a McDonald's opened. Unconfirmed rumour on Twitter is that a Subway will replace Ray's and Taste of India.
Count us among the extremely upset. The Scotia Square's was probably the best mall food court in the country, with interesting and varied local operations, and yet there seems to be a conscious effort to destroy that reputation. It's beyond sad. It's sick.