The closure of the Whyte Horse Café earlier this month has prompted an RCMP investigation. (CBC)

Canmore business owners are still in shock after the proprietors of small cafe closed up in the middle of the night, allegedly leaving thousands of dollars in unpaid rent and taking property from the building, including the kitchen sink.

The closure of the Whyte Horse Café earlier this month has prompted an RCMP investigation.

Leanne Decoteau, who owns the soap shop next door, said the café was open in the evening on July 16, but when she popped in for a coffee the next morning she found a note on the door.

"They decided to sell off all their worldly possessions and become nomads," she said.

In the days prior, Decoteau had seen moving trucks, but thought it was due to renovations.

"Now looking back, they waited until we were shut because nothing happened prior to our closing, which was 8 or 9 o'clock that night, so it was very quick and very carefully planned," she said.

The former proprietors of the cafe couldn't be reached for comment.


The owner of the building claims the kitchen sink is among the missing items. (CBC)

But the owner of the building, Elaine Lee, said she is facing $140,000 in damages and unpaid rent. The kitchen sink and the toilet are among the missing items. Lee said she is shocked because she'd been working with the café's proprietors to get caught up on rent going back to April.

Former landlord has similar complaint

Building owner Leagh Kendal alleges that he rented a space to the same café proprietors more than a year ago and the same thing happened.

When a business called Coffee Mine closed, Kendal alleges he was left with $40,000 in damages and unpaid rent.

"Well it was pretty well trashed – the ceiling torn down and the light fixtures were all taken off," he said.  "It was quite a mess. All the plumbing was disconnected. He walked off with the toilets, the basins, the hot water tank. He took right out of the wall fire doors with steel casings and everything."

Kendall said he gave up on using the courts to settle the problem because he didn't think the former tenants would have enough money to cover the costs.

RCMP Const. Jaret Scott says this type of incident is rare in small towns, but landlords should still do their homework.

"We recommend doing thorough background checks, including references, for potential tenants as well as having good lines of communication," he said.

Scott won't comment on the details of this case, but says an investigation is underway.