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Downtown Nanaimo restaurant announces end to soup program due to safety concerns

Gabriel’s Café owners say they remain ‘staunch defenders of downtown Nanaimo’
Downtown Nanaimo restaurant Gabriel’s Café is ending its soup taken program out of safety concerns for staff members. (Photo submitted)

Gabriel’s Café has announced it is ending its soup token program and will instead support a Nanaimo non-profit’s efforts to provide hot meals to people experiencing homelessness.

Owners of the restaurant on Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo made the announcement in a press release Tuesday, Jan. 31, and the new policy takes effect Wednesday, Feb. 1. The café had sold tokens that could be given to people in need, who could then cash in a token for a bowl of soup. According to the release, the café’s owners, Gabe and Gemma Martin, had been considering ending the program for several months.

“The safety of our staff is our No. 1 concern,” Gemma said in the press release.

“We’ve had people fall asleep at our tables or lock themselves in our bathroom, and we have been understanding when that happens, and willing to deal with that,” Gabe said.

However, they made their decision after hearing that “an individual had come into the café with a pair of knives with blood on them, put the knives on a table and asked for a bowl of soup.”

The release noted that the café will make donations to the Wisteria Community Association to go toward its Stone Soup program. The establishment said it has “great compassion for the extremely difficult situation Nanaimo’s homeless and impoverished residents work to survive through every day” and Gabe said “we are staunch defenders of downtown Nanaimo.”

Gabriel’s Café patrons will be able to donate directly to the Wisteria association when visiting the café.

Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 15, the café gave out 718 bowls of soup, 156 of which were covered by donations. The soup token program was announced in 2016, with tokens available for a donation of $5.50, later reduced to $4.50.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo’s Stone Soup opens new kitchen to make hot meals for people experiencing homelessness

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