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‘I’m in a prison’: Shop owner on the 2010 Games

The proprietor of a gelato shop near the Olympics Village feels trapped by a mega-event city officials promised would bring nothing but dollar signs.

“This is a small family business,” Mario Loscerbo, president of Mario’s Gelati Inc., told the Tyee. “My losses are already way over what we could sustain, its totally impossible for us to continue on.”

His business sits at 88 East 1 Avenue, nearly inside the athlete’s village. By Loscerbo’s account, the city promised him only a one month disruption when it began tearing up his street last March.

Instead, construction lasted until September. Road closures drove away business. Planks crossed deep ditches that used to be a sidewalk.

Loscerbo claimed construction crews damaged a neon sign and broke some decorative glass blocks. He estimated his sales took a $1 million beating.

Meanwhile, organizers assured him business would more than recover during the Games.

“They said, ‘you’re gonna make so much money,’” Loscerbo said.

Right now, road closures and heavy security make that seem unlikely. Talks with organizers have been unproductive, he said. Loscerbo plans to sue the city and VANOC for leading him to the brink of financial ruin.

“I’m just locked in now,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a prison. My store is like a morgue.”

Legal action wouldn't be unprecedented. Construction of the Canada Line caused massive disruptions for Cambie Street businesses.

One merchant won $600,000 in damages last year, though an appeal will likely be heard in April. Forty other Cambie Street businesses recently filed a lawsuit.

Loscerbo stressed he’s not against the Olympics. Despite everything, he’s excited for them.

“I’m happy that a lot of other business benefit from it, but I cannot absorb these losses,” he said.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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