Starlight to host benefit

(Photo by Justin Smirlies)

A fire that engulfed and destroyed a building in Uptown Waterloo in August containing independent business Ish and Chips, has hit close to home for other local entrepreneurs, who have thrown their support behind a benefit concert organized by neighbouring club Starlight.

The idea came about, said Starlight Lounge co-owner Josh Koehler, within a few days of the tragic event.

“These people are our neighbours, who we had a relationship with us over the years and so we were trying to think of what we could do that would help them the quickest and in the most practical, immediate way that would make sense for us,” he commented.

Koehler claimed that they found immense support for the idea amongst other local businesses, with over 50 now involved through sponsorship or the donation of prizes.

“That’s our lives, we’re there every day. People that are fellow entrepreneurs and that start a business are there every day, so it’s like their home away from home. You see these people every day and most evenings. And so you’re bound to kind of build up a relationship with them,” he said.

For Kamil Mytnik, whose parents own Ish and Chips, the support has been overwhelming. “Experiencing it first-hand is amazing and the turnout is just unbelievable,” he said.

“It’s very humbling to see that kind of support.”

While Koehler spoke particularly of their sympathy toward the loss of a fellow local business, he also acknowledged the gravity of the situation for others involved, including the two tenants who lived above the restaurant and “lost everything.” One occupant, according to Koehler, left with only his wallet – a devastating loss for someone who worked from home, with his laptop and potentially his livelihood both victims to the blaze.

The benefit concert, Koehler elaborated, isn’t just for Ish and Chips, but “for everyone that lost something in the building.”

Mytnik  wasn’t aware of any progress made in determining the cause of the fire, having been told by the Waterloo Fire Department to expect the investigation to take between eight and ten months. He could confirm that the fire did not start at Ish and Chips.

While Mytnik said that the restaurant hoped to rebuild as soon as possible, he acknowledged that both the restaurant and the property owner would have to deal with insurance obstacles, acquiring permits, and construction time.

“If we could get started on building tomorrow, give me some nail and hammers and I’ll go up and put up a building tomorrow. But there are legal issues, there’s a process for that,” he explained.

While the family does have insurance to cover some of their costs, Mytnik isn’t sure how long they could wait to rebuild. In the meanwhile, he’s working on another project to have a food truck that will travel throughout Uptown and around the university core.

The benefit, however, gives him hope that they’ll be to withstand the time it takes to rebuild.

“If it’s a significant amount [of money raised], my parents will be able to tough it out for the next little while and make some plans and come up with a solution,” Mytnik said.

The event will take place on Sept. 20 at Starlight, with doors at eight o’clock and music starting an hour later. Local musicians who have volunteered their time will be featured, including Saigon Hookers, Shawn Kellermen and Daddy Long Legs, among others. Those who attend are encouraged to pay what they can at the door and will also have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for items donated by local businesses.

All money from the door and raffle tickets, as well as a portion of drink sales, will divided between the building tenants and the owners of Ish and Chips.

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