Citta Bistro fighting to survive 

Restaurant gathering patrons’ stories in bid for new lease

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Citta Bistro is fighting for its life.

After 25 years in Whistler Village Square, its lease is set to expire on Feb. 28 — and the restaurant’s owners don’t yet know if they can get another one.

That’s led the business, which touts itself as the “heart of Whistler,” to clamber for community support by asking patrons to send in stories, photos and other testimonies in a bid to convince building owners to let the bistro stay.

“We haven’t been confirmed that we are the next tenant,” said Scott Gadsby, general manager for Citta Bistro.

Citta Bistro was started in 1984 by an entrepreneur named Carlo Bozzi and a couple of partners who immigrated from Italy, according to Gadsby. Carlo has since passed away and his daughter Sonia now owns the bistro.

Since that time it’s played host to thousands of locals and visiting celebrities, including Gene Simmons, Seal and the Vancouver Canucks.

The building, however, belongs to Burrard International Holdings, a Vancouver-based company owned by entrepreneur Caleb Chan. Burrard International is also the parent company for GolfBC, which owns the Nicklaus North Golf Course.

Other tenants in that building include Whistler’s Roots outlet, a Starbucks, various gift stores and the Crystal Lodge and Suites, which is owned by Burrard.

Thus far the company has not given Citta a new lease on life at its current location — and that’s why the bistro has initiated this campaign, which grew out of a local outcry when patrons heard the possibility that it may not be around after February.

In 25 years at its current location, Gadsby said the bistro has developed a history all its own and that it holds a special place in the community.

“We are iconically Whistler,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that are new to Whistler that call this place home, there’s a lot of old people that call this place home.”

Gadsby has a story of his own that started at Citta’s. In 1993, at 22 years old, he first came to Whistler and Citta Bistro was the first place he went. He rolled out of his car and had a pint of Big Rock. Since then he’s worked there as a bartender and general manager, and it’s the place he met his wife of eight years.

He wants people to tell stories of their time at the bistro.

“We’re not trying to inflame the landlord,” Gadsby said. “We certainly don’t want to make them out to be the bad guy because they’re not, they’re in business and we understand that.”

“We thought, let’s put our best foot forward and our best Whistler face and prove to them that we’re the perfect candidate for this location.”

A call to Caleb Chan’s office was not returned, and calls to Burrard International Holdings were directed to the Crystal Lodge.

Bryan Pilbeam, general manager of the lodge, told Pique that Burrard has been in discussion with Citta as well as a number of other interested parties about the space.

“There’s always been interest in that space by a number of operators, given the location,” he said. “As far as where it stands, that’s an open discussion. I can’t comment on who the other interested parties might be, there’s always confidentiality agreements in place in these sorts of matters.”

Mike Kirkegaard, manager of resort planning with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said Burrard International Holdings has an open development permit application to make some renovations to the Citta space, but he added it’s not going to change it from a food and beverage establishment.

“They have been looking at some modifications,” he said. “We’re awaiting drawings and formalization of that process by them, also placing a development permit sign on the site before we proceed with a review of the application.”

Pilbeam confirmed that Burrard is looking to do some renovations to the space that may include an expansion of the patio into the square.

“It’s just extensive upgrading the space with a possible expansion,” he said. “There’s a number of opportunities that they’re looking at, I don’t think that it’ll go too much further out, but it’s essentially just a different use of the space that’s there.”

Anyone who wants to tell their story about Citta can go to www.cittabistro.com. People can also send pictures and stories to savecitta@cittabistro.com. There’s also a petition posted in the bistro.

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