Parkdale residents fight 'Vegandale' neighbourhood rebranding
A group of vegan restaurants and businesses have recently opened along a 3-block stretch of Queen Street
A group of Parkdale residents is fighting what it calls an "arrogant, abrasive, divisive" rebranding of the neighbourhood by a collection of vegan businesses.
The businesses are calling the stretch of Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Brock Avenue "Vegandale."
This weekend, the group behind the rebranding will throw a block party to celebrate the opening of three new vegan businesses in the area: Copenhagen Vegan Bakery Cafe, Vegandale Brewery, and Not Your Mother. The "vegan retail concept store" The Imperative will also re-open.
But just steps away from the block party, a group of people concerned about the Vegandale name will hold a public forum to discuss what they call an unwelcome addition to the community. They are calling on the Vegandale organizers to cancel the block party and permanently remove the Vegandale branding.
"I view the brazen rebrand of the neighborhood as offensive, said a spokesperson for the community group Parkdale Life in an email to CBC Toronto. The spokesperson's name is withheld as a matter of group policy.
"I view the moral high ground as offensive, especially because it associates morality with eating in Vegandale restaurants, which many people can't afford in Parkdale."
Brewery offers 'Morally Superior IPA'
The vegan businesses have caused a stir over recent weeks due to a series of provocative signs and branding.
The Vegandale Brewery advertises its "Morally Superior IPA," its logo featuring a rendering of Lady Justice holding her scales. Also on tap: the "Principled Pilsner" and "See the Light Lager."
Another storefront features a sign reading, "Sometimes you have to remodel your space in order to remodel society."
"We never want to judge other people. Our entire message revolves around veganism and non-violence," said Hellenic Vincent De Paul, president of 5700 Inc., which owns and operates five businesses, including the Vegandale Brewery.
"If they come into our businesses on any given night, they will actually see that we have a diverse crowd."
Vincent De Paul says the concerns that his businesses don't cater to Parkdale's population are unfounded, and that their prices are the same or lower than the businesses they've replaced.
Vegandale another round of gentrification
But some people in the community say the vegan businesses are the latest instance of gentrification that is beginning to change the character of the area, as well as making it unaffordable for locals.
"Thousands of people have lost homes, rooming houses, apartments," said Kalsang Dolma, a candidate for this October's city council elections who has worked with the Parkdale Land Trust.
"Now we're having to do deal with someone using morality as their business model."
The organizers of the Saturday public forum against the rebranding says it is that sense of moral superiority, and not veganism itself, that is most egregious.
"Their marketing shames Parkdale residents and presents these businesses as morally superior. Great, you care about animals, but do you care about the people around you?" asked the spokesperson for Parkdale Life.
5700 Inc. will not attend the Saturday forum.
With files from Adrian Cheung