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With video: Vandalism, attacks on staff lead to closure of downtown Kamloops McDonald’s

Owner-operator Brandy Gozda-Sekhon told KTW the situation around the downtown location has worsened to the point that doing business there is no longer possible
downtown mcdonald's
The McDonald's restaurant in downtown Kamloops, at Victoria Street and Third Avenue, has been closed for good due to concerns about safety of staff working there.

The downtown McDonald’s restaurant has been closed permanently due to street-related issues that have caused damage and led to safety concerns for staff there.

Owner-operator Brandy Gozda-Sekhon told KTW the situation around the downtown location, at Victoria Street and Third Avenue, has worsened to the point that doing business there is no longer possible.

“It's the downtown as a whole, not just us,” she said. “I think that Kamloops is struggling and we've had some issues and I think everybody is very aware of it. Now, recently at that restaurant, we had a bakery cabinet literally pushed off the counter at one of our managers. And then we had another manager that was attacked. It just became too much.”

As owner-operator of six McDonald’s restaurants in Kamloops (including the now-shuttered downtown location) Gozda-Sekhon is one of the largest employers of youth in the city, with about 450 employees being students with part-time shifts. The downtown McDonald's had a full-time staff of three (all of whom have been transferred to other locations) and also scheduled employees from other restaurants when necessary.

“Based on that, we need to put forth the safety of our people,” she said, noting her company hired private security for about a month in a bid to improve the situation in the area of the restaurant in the heart of downtown. “It just wasn't doing what we needed it to do fully, so we got together with McDonald's Canada and we made the decision to close the restaurant,” she said, noting the lease with landlord Kelson Group has about a year left, rent that will be paid by the national company for space that will not be used.

From the violence seen in the customer who destroyed the bakery cabinet and plexiglass barrier to open drug use in front of the store to vandalism and harassment inside and outside the eatery, the decision to close became obvious.

“Thank God no one was hurt — I think that's the biggest thing,” Gozda-Sekhon said of the violent incident that was captured on video by a staff member.

“But who knows in the future? We've had problems and I think downtown as a whole is having problems. It's not because we want to be leaving. It's for the safety and the well-being of our people that we needed to make a change — and McDonald's Canada saw that, too. We've called the RCMP and, unfortunately, they're so overwhelmed that their response, isn't probably where it should be in certain cases.”

When the enraged customer was stalking the restaurant and smashed the bakery cabinet, sending it clattering to the floor, an employee can be heard on the video speaking to police on the phone.

Gozda-Sekhon said officers did not arrive for a couple of hours after the incident.

In addition to the damage, threats and vandalism, Gozda-Sekhon noted the downtown vibe has changed.

“I think that, overall, there's not a lot going on down there anymore. And it's sad to see. I worked there as a teenager, so it's a nostalgic restaurant,” she said. “You know, five or 10 years ago, it was bumping down there. We would be open until 3 a.m. There was life. It was fun to be down there.”

Gozda-Sekhon said the problem has worsened in the past few years and is not exclusive to the downtown core.

“The City of Kamloops really needs to see what's going on and they need to realize that this isn't just an isolated issue downtown anymore. This is just where the magnitude is,” she said. “We do need to come together as a community and really see that there's a problem. And I understand mental health and I understand that there are a lot of underlying issues. But McDonald's is a safe place to bring your kids. It's a Happy Meal and a smile. It's not somewhere where a kid should be scared of anything.

“I grew up in Kamloops. I worked with all my friends and none of us ever had to feel unsafe when we went to work. And I don't think anyone should. It's too bad.”