FREDERICTON – Head chef and co-owner of Caribbean Flavas, Naz Ali, wanted to open a patio for his restaurant but expanding onto the sidewalk was too expensive. Thanks to the help of his community, his patio became a reality.
“It’s an interesting, creative use of space because otherwise it’s just a plain parking lot,” Ali said.
When Ali asked the city about the sidewalk, it was a no go due to the trees and parking meters in front of his shop. But Ali’s landlord, Robert Simmonds, stepped up and allowed him to transform the parking lot into a patio.
Ali opened Caribbean Flavas 16 years ago. When he was at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton with his sisters, he decided to do a thesis about whether an ethnic restaurant could survive in a largely white community.
“So, they gave me a C+ for the project and I failed the course and I lost my scholarship and I couldn’t graduate,” Ali said.
But that didn’t stop him from opening an actual restaurant. He’s since operated a successful and sustainable business and one that’s attracted a range of well-known artists and bands, such as Hedley, Snoop Dogg, Sean Kingston, and the Black Eyed Peas.
Some of Ali’s food he serves includes, “Our ‘Ramadan’ Burger,” “Wild Caught Atlantic Salmon,” “Island Stir Fry,” “Mama’s Double Chocolatey Goodness,” and “Hand Folded Samosa Platters.”
During the process of getting his patio up and running, his samosas helped him out.
“A friend of ours, Lipstick Landscaping … came and helped us,” Ali said.
“[She] was like, ‘give me some samosas and I’ll help you guys.’”
The help didn’t stop there. Ali needed some pylons to block the space off to avoid people driving through it.
But pylons were expensive and hard to find. A customer came into the restaurant and asked Ali why he looked down and Ali explained how hard it was to find pylons.
“I didn’t know who this man was, right? He’s just a diner.”
But the next morning, Ali saw something sitting by his door.
“In a bag, brand new pylons with a note, ‘from your friends at Capital Towing.’”
Since he announced his patio, other restaurants have helped by sharing it around on social media. Every restaurant right now knows the struggles of the others because they’re all facing COVID-19 and the barriers that brings. Limited tables, less revenue, fewer customers. So, giving a share on social media is an easy way to lend a hand.
“Everybody’s kind of going through a hard time with COVID and people are just jumping in to help.”
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