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Steveston business vows to fight on, despite court ruling

The Fab Pad's Laura Stapleton was on the wrong end of a landlord's lawsuit, after falling out over the filming of Once Upon A Time in the village

“We were shocked. We thought, at least, it would be a draw.”

Steveston business owner Laura Stapleton is still coming to terms with a judge’s recent decision to order her to pay almost $20,000 in compensation to her former landlord.

The Fab Pad proprietor – along with fellow Moncton Street tenant Kimberley Sorensen, of It’s Posh Accessories – were on the wrong end of a lawsuit successfully filed by landlord Dyona Dallas for breach of a lease contract.

After renting the premises in 2013 for five years, the tenants and landlord fell out drastically, initially over business disruption payments from Disney/Stage 49, which was filming hit TV show Once Upon A Time (OUAT) in the village.

The makers of OUAT turned Stapleton and Sorensen’s place of business into Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop for the show.

But several weeks after the BC Supreme Court ruling was published, Stapleton said she won’t let the abject disappointment keep her down for too long.

And she said her lawyer is still looking into the possibility of an appeal against the decision, which also saw the court order fellow tenant Sorensen to pay more than $44,000 compensation for vacating the premises nine months early.

“We were shocked by the judge’s interpretation of the lease,” Stapleton told the Richmond News this week, adding that, on top of the near $20,000 compensation, there was also considerable legal costs awarded to her former landlord.

“But it’s not going to be the end…I’m not going to go bankrupt or anything.

“We’re going to keep going for sure; this is my livelihood, I’m not going to let it all go because of this. It’s definitely an unexpected blow and it has been awful having this hang around all these years.”

Lawsuit trial was "worst experience" of shop owner's life

Stapleton said having to give evidence during the six-day lawsuit trial was “the worst experience of my entire life.”

“Being on the witness stand for three of the six days was grueling.”

After falling out with landlord Dallas at around 2016 about the Disney filming disruption payments, amongst other things, Stapleton said the relationship got to a point that her doing business at the address was “untenable.”

“There were nine months left on the lease, but I couldn’t stay there any longer. There were ongoing inspections out of nowhere, totally random.”

Both the landlord and the tenants ended up losing film production payments during the filming of OUAT’s final season, as Disney said it would only pay up if the two warring parties came to an agreement.

In the end, Disney erected a façade for Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop right next door to the two businesses and paid zero compensation to either the landlord or the tenants.

Stapleton moved her business in 2018 just a few doors down the road on Moncton, where she has been operating since and has been receiving film disruption payments from other shows, without incident and enjoys a trouble-free, landlord-tenant relationship.

However, she said her experience is a painful and cautionary tale for other businesses in the village when it comes to negotiating filming disruption payments with production companies.

“The main thing I want out there is letting other merchants know about this. The judge has set the precedent here,” she said.

“When it comes to filming, I want other merchants to know that they need to look out for themselves and that contracts are reviewed by a lawyer.

“And make sure they are the ones being compensated directly. The landlord is not the one whose business is being disrupted.

“I really don’t want anybody else to go through this, that’s why I want them to know that they shouldn’t take anything in good faith, always get it checked out and make sure you know what your rights are.”