come first at Antonio Ashori’s Downtown Eastside pub
“This is a grandfather’s
pub,” Ashori says with a wave of his hand, his graying hair
and youthful demeanor reflected in the atmosphere he’s created.
Antonio Ashori reminisces about what Hastings Street must have
looked like in 1913
Walking into the Empress
is a bit like walking into an episode of Cheers.
The big difference
is most of the patrons have white hair.
here, they’re not who you see on the street,” he says.
Two years ago when
he bought the hotel and pub, he banned fighting and dealing. The
Empress was home to trouble makers.
This safer, cleaner
Empress has now attracted many retired and senior clients living
in the Downtown Eastside.
They are the people
who used to spend their days and nights in single room occupancy
hotel rooms alone. They used to “wake up in the morning
and have nothing to do”.
When Ashori, 50, immigrated
to Canada from Iran in 1995, he left many friends and relatives
He knew what it was
like to be alone.
Today, he watches how
the aging clients in his pub turn to each other for support in
their old age. He recognizes the importance of maintaining a community
taproom that is secure and conducive to friendship.
don’t deserve to suffer,” Ashori says. “I’m
just feeling it myself: I’ll work hard in this country and
after that I’ll get old and then be like the leftover food
on a plate where I’ll be put in the garbage.”
When other bars in
the area became rougher, Terry Hanley and her husband gravitated
towards a place where there were “lots of old men sitting
The Empress has become a safe place for seniors to drink and socialize
Hanley is a regular at the Empress. She said old people don’t
want to drink in a chaotic environment where they could get injured.
“How you can
tell if a bar is safe or not is by how many people walk around,”
Hanley says. “If there are people walking around all the
time, you know they’re drug dealing. But if most of the
people are sitting down drinking, then you know it’s a safe
Hanley, 61, notes that
many seniors don’t have big pensions and have limited mobility.
closest bar to home, the toilets are usually clean — I rate
every bar on its toilets — and it’s affordable,”
Hanley says. “I live next door to [the strip club] Number
Five Orange, but I can’t afford seven bucks for a beer and
I’m not interested in looking at strippers.”
Ashori takes action
day-by-day to keep up a welcoming environment. When he’s
not at the pub, he takes trips to the local hardware store to
buy supplies to improve the building.
a wobbly chair or sticky table in the Empress.
“In my country,
there is a poem that says: if I die, you bring me 100 flowers
to put on my grave. But remember me right now with one single
flower. Don’t wait for me to die for you to put flowers
on my grave. Remember me right now when I’m alive.”
The City Of Vancouver
appears to be taking up Ashori’s lead.
A sidewalk mosaic on the corner of East Hastings and Main recognises
the value of the community
The city is monitoring the Downtown Eastside, among other areas,
in order to determine seniors’ future needs.
Current senior centers
in East Hastings include the Carnegie Community Center and the
Vancouver Second Mile Society.
According to Mary Clare
Zak, Director of Social Planning, the City of Vancouver will be
discussing how to plan for social facilities such as senior centers.
The process involves
looking at the needs of demographic populations and determining
the infrastructure for social, housing and meeting-place facilities.
as Vancouver citizens, to have a strong not-for-profit sector
as a part of our mix in the city, in terms of our being able to
support livability,” Zak says. “The other reason for
our social infrastructure plan is to ensure that [seniors] have
a space in the city as well as social services.”
This is the kind of
approach Ashori takes every day at the Empress. He believes that
it’s everyone’s job to make sure seniors “always
have somewhere to go when they wake up”.
to article: http://thethunderbird.ca/2008/10/06/pub-owner-creates-safe-haven-for-seniors/