Local restaurant owner to return to Edmonton's river valley after multinational company exit

Less than two years after taking over the operation of city-owned food facilities in the River Valley, a multinational corporation has ceased its work in Edmonton's biggest and busiest parks.

Culina on the Lake will open in Hawrelak Park

Brad Lazarenko says the lake in Hawrelak Park is the perfect spot to open a small restaurant that will cater to park visitors in winter and summer. (John Robertson/CBC)

After a high-profile exit in 2018, Brad Lazarenko is once again bringing his brand of local cuisine to Edmonton's river valley. 

The move comes after a multinational corporation ceased its work in Edmonton's biggest and busiest parks, less than two years after taking over the operation of recreation facility food venues.

The city's decision to award contracts to Red Table, a division of Houston-based Civeo Corporation, sparked controversy in 2018  when some local operators did not have their contracts renewed in locations such as the Victoria Golf Course and Riverside Golf Course — a decision critics said was at odds with the city's own FRESH strategy to support local food initiatives.

Civeo ceased its operations at city facilities in November, city spokesperson Carol Hurst said in an email. When asked for clarification on how long the company had signed contracts for and whether the company's contract had expired, Hurst said, "we're unable to provide additional information on this matter."

"Red Table, a division of Civeo, ceased operations at city facilities in November 2019," she said.

Lazarenko, owner and founder of the Culina Family of restaurants, is getting back into the river valley food business, with a new venture planned for Hawrelak Park. Culina had been running four ventures in the river valley when it was informed in March 2018 that its contracts were not being renewed.

The restaurant space in Hawrelak Park is currently not operating after Civeo Corporation ceased operations in the river valley as of November 2018. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

"I'm going to transform it into a lakeside cafe; I think the location is amazing. It will be Edmonton's only lakeside restaurant," Lazarenko said on Monday about his new project, Culina on the Lake.

Lazarenko called the venture a pilot project; he has signed a year-long lease with an option to renew. Culina on the Lake will open for the Silver Skate Festival in 2020 and he hopes to be open full time during the summer. 

Other vendors yet to be named

Although his contracts were not renewed in 2018, Lazarenko maintained he has good relations with the city.

"I was a little disgruntled in the beginning but more disappointing that they made a decision like that," he said. 

"It was sort of out of their hands I guess. I can understand why because Civeo took all of their locations, so I think they thought it would be a lot easier to deal with one person. I don't like dwelling on the past, no hard feelings."

Red Table had won contracts for nine city facilities. The city has not yet completed contracts with new vendors for all of the locations.

"We recognize the importance of working with local providers on delivering healthy, locally-sourced options at our facilities," said Hurst in an email. "Once a decision has been made, and agreements are completed, we would be happy to speak further on the chosen vendors."