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One is enough
Deninu Ku'e chief objects to possible competition in Res restaurant sector

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 18, 2013

The chief of Deninu Ku'e First Nation (DKFN) believes Fort Resolution is only big enough for one restaurant.

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Louis Balsillie: chief of Deninu Ku'e First Nation objects to possible competition to band's restaurant. - NNSL file photo

That's why Louis Balsillie is objecting to the Hamlet of Fort Resolution's call for expressions of interest to operate the concession at Antoine Beaulieu Memorial Hall, which he said would be competition for Deninu Restaurant, currently being operated by the First Nation.

"We're hoping to continue, but what I see myself is, if the hamlet is going to tender this out, there's no point in having two restaurants," Balsillie said.

The chief is particularly concerned the hamlet is getting support from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) to operate its buildings, including the community hall, which he said would give any takeout/restaurant operation there an unfair advantage.

"We might as well close our doors and let MACA run the restaurant in the community," he said.

Patrick Simon, the deputy mayor with the Hamlet of Fort Resolution, said the call for expressions of interest is the result of a hamlet resident's inquiry about the community hall's recently-upgraded kitchen facilities, which are largely not being used.

Simon said the resident wanted to see if she could rent the kitchen monthly to run it a few hours a day throughout the week, possibly for a takeout.

"We considered it and then we decided to be more fair and just see if there was any more interest," he said, noting it could help offset hall expenses and make a little more use of the facility. "In our small communities, we find that we have a lot of buildings that are really expensive to maintain and run, and we don't get as much use of it as we should. We were looking at this as a possible way of making it available for people to congregate, as well as to grab as snack."

Simon, who happens to work for DKFN, said such an operation at the community hall could not help but be competition to the restaurant operated by the First Nation, but noted hamlet council has not yet looked at the idea from all angles.

"I'm sure now that issues are coming out around this whole thing we can fully consider everything and then make a decision," he said.

Simon said he thinks Fort Resolution is a little too small to reasonably expect two restaurants to run full time.

The call for expressions of interest closes on Jan. 28 and hamlet council is expected to discuss the issue at its meeting in early February.

Deninu Restaurant first opened early last year as Ama's Kitchen under a lease arrangement between DKFN and a community resident.

"We tendered it out and it didn't work out well. So we went ahead and we opened it ourselves," Balsillie said, noting the band took over in October and paid close to $38,000 to the former operator for furniture and equipment.

The chief said the band would have not gotten into the restaurant business if it had known the hamlet might lease out the concession at the community hall because two restaurants for a population of about 500 would not make business sense.

Balsillie also noted the First Nation is operating the restaurant, which is attached to its DKDC Store, with money from that store and different revenues raised in the community through its development corporation, not government funding.

Deninu Restaurant operates from Monday to Friday.

"It's working well," Balsillie said. "It's not busy busy, but I see a lot of different people from out of the community. When they're in town, they go there."

The chief expressed his concern about the call for expressions of interest in a Jan. 16 letter to the hamlet. The letter was also sent it to the territorial government.

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