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Downtown Nanaimo sushi restaurant owner traumatized by daytime robbery

Nana Sushi restaurant suffering impacts of deteriorating social issues on Victoria Crescent

A restaurant owner, her staff and her children have been left traumatized after their restaurant was robbed and staff threatened in downtown Nanaimo.

Agnes Kim – who co-owns and operates Nana Sushi on Victoria Crescent with her sister Deborah – and her staff were serving meals at the restaurant at about 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, when one of the cooks heard a noise coming from a back room where employees hang their jackets and keep other personal belongings.

“He heard some strange sounds, so he went to check and saw some strange guy,” Kim said.

When the chef demanded to know who the man was and what he was up to, the suspect threw a can at him and fled out a side door of the restaurant with the chef and other staff, now alerted to what was going on, in pursuit.

Kim said there were five or six customers in the restaurant at the time, plus staff and her son and daughter who are often at the restaurant after school.

“The main chef was following this guy, but he yelled to our chef, ‘I have a knife,’” she said.

Kim said the man put his hand in his pocket to gesture that he had a knife. None was produced, but she feared he could have a sharp filleting knife that had been in the back room. The knife was one of the items missing along with hundreds of dollars in tip money, credit cards and bank cards after the suspect fled. She told the chef to stop chasing the suspect, but he pursued anyway.

Restaurant security video showed the suspect entered and fled through a side door of the restaurant.

Police caught and arrested the man – from Nanaimo, but of no fixed address – not long after the robbery.

“We caught him a short distance away with the stolen money,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, adding that the suspect was scheduled to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo the next day.

Kim said crime, violence, drug use and homelessness are becoming more serious issues in downtown Nanaimo. She has lost count of the number of break-in attempts. The door the suspect entered and fled from Monday has been repaired numerous times, windows have been smashed and human waste has to be cleaned up regularly from around the entranceway. One individual hid in the washroom at closing time and defecated on the floor. Incidents, such as break-in attempts, vandalism, violence and other criminal activities that used to happen at night now happen in plain view in broad daylight, she said.

Kim came to Canada in 2013, but moved to Nanaimo from Abbotsford seven years ago after visiting the city.

“Nanaimo people were more kind and friendly,” she said. “Everybody understood about my English skills. One day I went to Tim Hortons for coffee, but my English is too bad, but they said that’s OK … Everybody’s very kind in Nanaimo, so I love Nanaimo.”

Kim said her 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter are traumatized by what they experienced witnessing Monday’s robbery, and she worries about them. With the social issues downtown and the pandemic compounding effects on business, she wonders if she’ll be able to keep the restaurant going.

“If I close this restaurant, I don’t have any idea about how I’m going to take care of my kids, because I’m a single mom … I’m actually really scared because when he was arrested he saw my face and he yelled to me, ‘I will kill you,” she said.

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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