Yellowknife's only Thai restaurant has closed its doors for the winter, after losing its contract with the city's curling club in part because it refused to change its menu to include western food.
One of a Thai has operated out of a space in the Yellowknife Curling Club since 2011. The space serves as a brick-and-mortar restaurant space in the winter months. In the summer, its kitchen is used to prep for the restaurant's popular food truck.
Sousanh Chanthalangsy, One of a Thai's owner, said the notice that the restaurant's contract wouldn't be renewed "was a surprise."
"They [the curling club] came up with some different things, what they want to do with the contract, adding burgers and fries onto the menu, and finger foods, kind of changing our hours and adding extra days, things like that," she said.
"But once they said they wanted us to add burgers and fries, I said: 'I don't think that's going to happen.' Because we do Thai food."
One of a Thai's last day in the curling club was Tuesday, prompting many loyal patrons to come down to the restaurant to get their fix.
"It's good food, and it's clean food," said curling club member Steve Robertson, who showed up for lunch Tuesday. He said he "can't wait for food truck season."
Robertson was diplomatic when asked about the reasons that led to the restaurant's closure.
"Personally, I prefer the Thai food for sure, but I also see the other side," he said. "Maybe traditionally, it's more of a burger and fries establishment."
Issues with hours, rent, says curling club prez
Brad Whitehead, the president of the Yellowknife Curling Club, says changes to the menu was just one of multiple issues raised during a meeting to negotiate a new contract, which One of a Thai has been operating without for three years.
At the meeting, Whitehead said a representative with the City of Yellowknife suggested a rent increase, as the restaurant was only paying $450 per month to use the curling club space.
"Also the curling club wasn't very happy with the menu," he added. "Not saying we didn't like the menu, it's just that when we get off the ice curling on a Saturday or a Sunday, we didn't feel like having their Thai food. So we asked them if they would be interested in cooking soup and maybe sandwiches.
"And then I said it would be really nice if you could have some kind of finger food, or whatever, or maybe the odd person may want a hamburger and fries. And they said nope, they wouldn't entertain that."
Whitehead also said the curling club was unhappy with the hours the restaurant was operating, noting that One of a Thai's owners left town for the month of November, and were planning another trip in January, during the club's busy season.
"And the last three Fridays, they've been closed because they've been catering a banquet," he said. "They're not catering to our curlers. They're catering to their business. That's where we're coming from."
Whitehead said a new concession contract has already been signed, and he wishes One of a Thai's owners and staff well.
"It just didn't work out," he said.
'When one door closes, another one opens'
Chanthalangsy said that while she'll land on her feet, it's still difficult to close the doors on the restaurant's loyal following.
"It's just hard," she said. "A lot of the customers that have come and grown to love our food, they won't be getting it during the winter. But we're still going to be operating full force in the summer."
In addition to preparing for food truck season, Chanthalangsy has partnered with local supplement company Performance Kings to offer delivery of healthy, home-cooked meals aimed at athletes, which she hopes to debut in early 2016. She also said that she hopes to find another restaurant space in the future.
"When one door closes, another one's gonna open," she said. "And this is actually my door opening."
Despite losing her space at the curling club, Chanthangsy said she's "really proud" that she was able to introduce Thai food into Yellowknife's restaurant community along with her mother, who helps come up with the restaurant's recipes.
"For us to start it, and to bring it up, and to actually gain more followers and have more people loving the food is the best feeling ever," she said. "When we make an item, and someone comes up to us and says: 'oh, that's so good!'"
"That's, like, the best feeling ever."