Windsor

Wheatley business owner affected by explosion says insurance company won't renew

The owner of a long-standing business in Wheatley's town centre says his insurance company will not be renewing its policy and that means further uncertainty for him and others affected by an explosion last summer.

The owner of the Car Barn Restaurant says liability insurance was offered but it is of no use while evacuated

Barry Broadbent is the owner of the Car Barn Restaurant, which has been closed down since last summer's explosion. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The owner of a long-standing business in Wheatley's town centre says his insurance company will not be renewing its policy and that means further uncertainty for him and others affected by an explosion last summer.

"It's the fear of the unknown," said Barry Broadbent, owner of the Car Barn Restaurant.

"It's really hard to make a plan going forward because without insurance, obviously, there's just too big a risk to get back into business."

The explosion has left most of the town's centre empty for over six months. Some buildings were completely destroyed and drilling has been taking place in the area to find the source of the blast, believed to have been caused by an abandoned gas well.

Numerous businesses were inside the evacuation zone and have not been able to open since the explosion.

Broadbent has been running the Car Barn in that location for the last 34 years. He said his insurance was up for renewal at the end of last month and they informed him they would not be renewing the policy he has on his property and building. He said he's spoken to a local broker who has also been trying to help to no avail.

Hopefully this isn't the start of falling dominoes.- Mike Renwick

"As far as the property and the buildings go, there's nothing they're interested in," Broadbent said. "They've just said they're not interested in supplying insurance to my particular property because it's in the evacuation zone."

Broadbent said his company did offer to sell him liability insurance but that wouldn't be much use to him since nobody is allowed in or out of the evacuation zone right now.

He did say he appreciates the government funding that has been available to those in Wheatley in wake of the Aug. 26 explosion.

"Thank God for them, because on the other side, we just haven't had a lot of support from the insurance folks," Broadbent said. 

Broadbent speaks the night the explosion happened last summer:

Scene of Wheatley explosion was 'mayhem', business owner says

12 months ago
Duration 0:47
Barry Broadbent, owner of The Car Barn restaurant, describes the scene after an explosion destroyed two buildings in Wheatley, Ont., on Thursday.

Falling dominoes

 Mike Renwick, the chair of Wheatley's Business Improvement Association, said it's "completely ludicrous" for a company to decline to insure a client.

Renwick said he hasn't heard of any other businesses that have encountered the same issue, but he fears of what others may find out when their time to renew comes up, including the insurance he has on the smokehouse he runs that is also shut down in the evacuation zone.

"Hopefully this isn't the start of falling dominoes," he said.

He said that he wouldn't be able to operate his insurance without it. 

"Technically and legally you can't operate a company without insurance," he said.

The provincial government, which has been offering assistance to residents and businesses affected by the blast, said that commercial insurance is not regulated in the province so the terms can vary depending on the policy or the insurer one uses.

The Car Barn Restaurant in downtown Wheatley has been fenced off since last summer's explosion. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

It said that anyone who may have difficulty finding insurance can contact the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC)

CBC News did contact the IBC about Wheatley, and a spokesperson provided a written response that stated that when properties that are exposed to significant risks, there could be challenges for consumers.

The organization, which represents Canada's private insurance companies, also said it had an action plan that could assist consumers at "challenging times."

"IBC offers a free risk-management consultancy service via its Business Insurance Action Team to help businesses improve their overall risk profile in an effort to secure insurance," it said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

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