Nfld. & Labrador

Tired and cold: Mohamed Ali owner puts restaurants up for sale

A year after opening his second Middle Eastern restaurant in St. John's, the owner of Mohamed Ali is ready for a change.

Ali Al Haijaa says it's time for a change — and some sun

Ali Al Haijaa, owner of two Mohamed Ali Middle Eastern restaurants, says he needs a break from the restaurant industry in St. John's. (Paula Gale/CBC)

A year after opening his second Middle Eastern restaurant in St. John's, the owner of Mohamed Ali is putting both locations up for sale.

The reason? He's tired, he says. And cold. And the economy isn't helping.

"I feel too much on me, working hard for 12 years and never stop," Ali Al Haijaa told the St. John's Morning Show on Friday.

We're sick of the snow and cold. We miss the sun.- Ali Al Haijaa

When he was assigned to Newfoundland and Labrador upon his arrival in Canada, he began working at the Sprout vegetarian restaurant until opening Mohamed Ali on Duckworth Street in 2014. A second location, on Water Street, opened last year.

He's flat-out and needs a break, he said.

Good customers, friendly people

"We need to change my plan now, do something different and easier for me and my family too."

Al Haijaa, originally from Palestine, came to Newfoundland 12 years ago after four years in a refugee camp between Iraq and Jordan.

Mohamed Ali, a Middle Eastern restaurant, opened a new location on Water Street in 2017. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

The restaurant industry isn't an easy one, he said.

"Especially here, the weather and a lot of rules and regulation," he said. "I'm still doing good, I have really good customers, friendly people, everything … [But] I feel tired. It's enough."

He said he's keeping his head above water, but 2017 and this year have been the worst he's seen the local economy since he opened his first restaurant, he said, adding that the provincial government should provide more incentives to encourage immigrants to settle in the area.

A place in the sun

"Government could help foreign people to open businesses or support them through jobs," he said.

He says he and his family want to move some place warmer.

"We're sick of the snow and the cold," he said. "We miss the sun."

If and when his family goes, it will be difficult to leave the place that welcomed him as a refugee, though.

"I feel like my heart is kind of pushing me to keep us here, but we need to do it," he said. "We have to change something. This is the important thing."