Nightclub-turned-restaurant celebrates 40 years of Indian cuisine
Rising prices and gentrification present challenge for small businesses in Vancouver
Forty years ago, Richhpal Gupta decided to take over an old nightclub in Vancouver and turn it into an Indian restaurant.
The family-run India Gate has been serving northern Indian cuisine on Robson Street, just off Granville, since 1978.
"At that time, Vancouver was so small — it looked like a newly born baby and now it's grown up," said Gupta, who came to Canada from India on a ship six years earlier.
India Gate celebrated four decades in business this week with a music-filled dinner party.
When Gupta first started the restaurant, enticing customers to try a new type of cuisine was the challenge.
"We had to struggle a little bit hard at that time because we had to go shop to shop just to give out flyers and tell them that this Indian food is very good," Gupta told CBC's Margaret Gallagher.
He was concerned the food would be too spicy, so he adapted the hotness levels of the recipes he got from his wife and brother-in-law, who used to own a restaurant in India.
"We made mild, medium, hot, very hot, suicide and killer," he said.
Suicide-hot became a popular favourite among customers, Gupta added.
'Can't say about the future'
Now, though, the challenge is no longer about gaining a footing in the community — it's about surviving amid the rising unaffordability of the city.
"Unfortunately with the prices going up so much, it's going to push small businesses out," said Gupta's son, Gurmeet.
Gurmeet Gupta grew up in the restaurant, crawling between table legs as an infant and clearing tables as he got older. Now, he helps his father with the business.
"We've been here so long so we are able to negotiate better rent," he said. "It's still difficult, but we do manage … but we can't say about the future."
He credits the restaurant's success to the fact it is family run.
"Day in and day out, seven days a week, we are here to make sure that the operation runs smoothly," he said. "We bring community. Everybody knows us, we know people by name."