The popular Blunt Brothers Caf? in the heart of Vancouver?s pot-block fell victim to a raging fire on the morning of Sunday, April 25, 2004 ? a fire started, claim investigators, by arsonists using an accelerant.
Three dumpsters were spotted burning in the back alley behind the three-story historic Gastown building shortly before dawn. The arsonists had apparently poured fuel under the back door of the building and into the dumpsters.
The flames spread under the back door, up the outer wall of the building, and leapt inside. The entire structure was utterly destroyed in the blaze which took 11 firetrucks and 50 firefighters to battle. Luckily, no one was hurt.
The owner of the Blunt Brothers Caf? says he is not sure if he?ll rebuild the business, which he described as a Vancouver institution. He is currently redirecting his focus to his other venture, the New Amsterdam Caf?, on the same block, until insurance matters and other decisions are finalized in respect to the Blunt Brothers business plan. He told the media, “It?s kinda sad in a way. As much as it?s a business, its a clearing house of counterculture started with the hippies, the punks, and the potheads.”
There is also speculation that sometime in the future Blunt Brothers may consider creating satellite retail stores, placing them in nearby suburban locales.
Destruction and survival
Other businesses that had inhabited the now demolished building included costume and fetish-wear shop Cabbages & Kinx, counterculture bookstore Spartacus Books, a retail marijuana seed outlet, and the studios of local artists whose precious life works were destroyed. Firemen also found a small grow op in the building.
The BC Marijuana Party Bookstore, which also houses Pot-TV, Marc Emery Direct Seed Sales and the Urban Shaman, is located right next door to Blunt Brothers. The store was damaged by smoke and water but fortunately remained intact.
The Pot-TV studio computers were not damaged due to forethought by firefighters, who covered the sensitive equipment with tarps. The valuable Emery Direct seed stock was also blessedly unharmed.
After some extensive clean-up to repair the space and its merchandise, the BC Marijuana Party Bookshop reopened three days after the fire, although restoring power and Internet connections took much longer.
“We had all surfaces of the store completely cleaned,” said Marc Emery, President of the BC Marijuana Party and the unofficial leader of Vancouver?s pot movement. “It has never been so clean! Pipes, Bubble Bags, seeds, books, magazines and all other retail items will be available as usual.” The clothing stock that was contaminated by smoke smell was sent to be dry-cleaned, and then sold at half price.
Due to the controversial nature of Emery?s business, the financial loss he was hit with could not be insured. “We have suffered costs of about $12,000 or more,” estimated Emery, and then added positively, “We have received $520 US in donations through PayPal. Thanks to all who donated! The key thing is that nothing about our activism is in any way changed or adversely affected. We have survived!”