Expensive Pop-Up 'Dome' Restaurant Under Toronto Highway Prompts Protest

The $500-a-table pop-up dinner is being held just a mile away from the site of a former homeless encampment.

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Apr 8 2019, 9:21pm

Photo: Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

About a month ago, city officials in Toronto cleared out a homeless encampment beneath a downtown section of the Gardiner Expressway, claiming that it would protect public safety by preventing open fires, which the encampment relied on for heat. The city wasn’t sure exactly how many people were living there, but six encampments were cleared out across the city.

Two weeks later, another stretch of the same area found new inhabitants: wealthy diners. On March 28, a pop-up restaurant called Dinner With a View announced its residency in Toronto, and that its heated glass domes would be set up—you guessed it—underneath the Gardiner Expressway. On its website, the pop-up describes itself as “a completely luxurious dining experience in a highly unexpected setting.” The three-course meal was planned by chef René Rodriguez, a Top Chef Canada winner.

Though the location of the pop-up is a little over a mile away from the cleared-out homeless encampment, complaints are rolling in that the event is tone-deaf, due to its proximity and its very high price point. To reserve one of the domes costs $149, plus another $99 for each guest, of which you need at least four. That puts your dinner bill at a minimum of $545 right off the bat, which doesn’t include tax, tip, fees, booze, or even water.

Overall, responses have been mixed. People on Twitter are calling the pop-up “dystopian,” “revolting,” “obscene,” and have even asked whether or not it was an April Fool’s joke (it’s not). Influencers, however, look like they’re having a good time, judging by their Instagram posts—which have also spurred some hate. For one Toronto blogger, a post at the event earned comments like, “This is disgusting. Shame on you”—although she also received more than 2,200 likes on her photo.

The protests have taken place offline as well. “In our city, homeless people living under the Gardiner with no heat are evicted, meanwhile pop-up restaurants serving luxury dinners in heated domes under that same highway are granted permits. The brazenness in our opinion begs a challenge and we’re happy to oblige,” anti-poverty activist and organizer Yogi Acharya told CTV News. On Friday, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty held an event called “Dinner With a View… of the Rich.”

The free, three-course dinner was held next to the pop-up, with a goal of disrupting the event and preventing the city's “desensitization” to “boorishness by the wealthy.”

“[D]id the restaurant patrons personally evict the homeless from under the Gardiner? No. Is their chichi dining experience close to where people were often hungry and cold, crass? Yes,” reads OCAP’s FAQ on the event. “Do they deserve to be mocked for their obliviousness to the suffering around them? Absolutely.”

As a spokesperson for Dinner with a View told CTV News, the event wasn’t at all affiliated with the local government of Toronto, which OCAP also acknowledged is responsible for fixing the current housing crisis. That problem, according to OCAP, goes up to Toronto mayor John Tory—whom they’re pressing for more affordable housing and emergency shelters in a protest later this week.

The 1976 science fiction movie Logan’s Run imagined a pseudo-utopia in the year 2274—where, in a city of geodesic domes, people lived young, happy, pleasure-filled lives. There’s always a catch, though; in that story, it’s that everyone gets killed when they reach the age of 30.

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