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Toronto, the hospitality black hole...

August 3 2004 at 3:33 PM
trawna  (Login trawna)

Well, NoLies,

Things are pretty bad here. The good news is that Joe McHavoc (Mihevc) got kicked off the Health Board as Chair.

The bad news is that before he left, he banned anything connected with smoking. For instance, I can now get a $260.00 fine for having a lighter on my premises.

Yes, you heard right...a lighter! What a goose stepping Nazi, eh? I also heard from some friends of mine in Montreal that tourism there is really good. I mean, busy! Could it have something to do with smoking and the fact that you CAN smoke there? Also, because Montreal makes Toronto look like the Amish capital of Canada?

Toronto however, is as dead as a doornail. Yes, the healthy, albeit polluted environment of Toronto, where drive thrus, legal pesticides, smoking, and fun in all of its forms are banned, is devoid of tourism.


The winter is going to be brutal. Right now, all of the patios are busy while the insides of places are dead. I've heard of some business owners who have taken outside jobs in order to keep their businesses. Most management staff has been laid off, as well as servers and bartenders. I predict around 200 to 300 bankruptcies after this winter. Even the big corporate places are having a hard time. A health inspector told me that small places like mine are disappearing from Toronto. Thank God I'm moving to Niagara soon. My house closes tomorrow.

One owner that I know of through a customer said before the ban that the ban will be only a "blip" for her new business and that she would be fine. She owns a corporate franchise/pub. I laughed at that one. Guess what? She was wrong! She's in big trouble now. Most of her clients are seeking out patios or having parties at home.

Read on about the woes of our businesses because of this ill-timed ban (you know, after Sept 11th, SARS, the blackout, record consumer debt (less disposable income, which we rely on) etc...

Jul. 31, 2004. 01:00 AM
Shawn Bowring of the music venue above Sneaky Dee’s sees a few more empty seats these days.
Non-smoking . . . non-drinking
Anti-smoking rule cleared some bars of patrons, too

One College St. bar fights back with `Smoking Social'


Shaun Bowring, arbiter of rock for the rough old room above Sneaky Dee's restaurant on College St., labours under no illusion as to his primary function.

"I love the music, and I love booking bands," says Bowring, who has been the gatekeeper of this performance space for a year and a half. "But my job is to make sure they sell beer at Sneaky Dee's. I've got to make the owners happy, and instead of bellying up to the bar between bands, people are running outside."

Just why that's become the case will be no mystery to anyone who's been to a bar — live music venue or not — over the past two months. The across-the-board smoking ban applied to restaurants and bars has driven smokers outdoors en masse.

Whether it's simply between sets, or permanently — to ever-swelling bar patios throughout the city — the consequences of the ban are falling into sharp relief for the handful of venues that can't provide them with a place to indulge their habit.

"I would say our business is down 30 to 50 per cent," said Darryl Fine, owner of the Bovine Sex Club, a dark cave of a bar on Queen St. W. that is no less than hallowed ground for two generations of adherents to the rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

Since 1991, the hard-living, hard-drinking chain-smokers once made the Bovine something of an unofficial clubhouse, gathering to catch off-the-map live acts from the local scene or just to kick back with a beer, a smoke and the blaring comforts of Led Zeppelin pounded through the bar's sound system.

But trapped without any outdoor space to speak of, the Bovine's regular clientele have either cut their drinking hours at the club in favour of smoke-friendly environments, or simply moved on entirely.

"They come later, after loading up on nicotine at home," Fine said. "They'll show up just before a set, and then leave right after. We spend all our time trying to come up with ideas to keep people inside the venue and keep them entertained. But they go outside four or five times a night, instead of socializing and having a beer at the bar. And then they're gone."

The Bovine, with its long-held reputation, is perhaps the most extreme example the ban's unintended effect — clean air, yes, but in empty rooms. It's hardly alone. At Sneaky Dee's, Bowring says the impact was immediate. "On some nights, it's been down half," he said of business. "The first couple of weeks were brutal. Even the restaurant downstairs was empty."

At the Cameron House, a high-ceilinged, charmingly rustic urban drinking hall that is a mainstay of the city's independent culture community, the pain has also been acute. "I've had no choice but to take protective measures to get us through the summer," said Cindy Matthews, one of the Cameron's owners. "I've had to lay people off. And all the self-righteous non-smokers who said they'd be here as soon as we went non-smoking? Nowhere to be found."

`All the self-righteous non-smokers who said

they'd be here as soon

as we went non-smoking? Nowhere to be found.'

Cindy Matthews,

co-owner of the Cameron House

The Cameron, which hosts an eclectic mix of live music throughout the week, has a small advantage on the Bovine or Sneaky Dee's — a tiny patio with a capacity of six. "It's kept us going, thank God," Matthews said. "I don't know what it is, but for some reason, people seem incapable of socializing without a smoke in their hands."

Some people, at least. And, as the theory goes, they tend to be the ones who drink and go to bars.

"This idea that people who wouldn't go out before because of the smoke are suddenly going to fill those numbers — not true," said Bowring. "Those people traditionally don't go to bars. It's not their calling."

It's left precious little to fill the canyon-sized gap that some bar owners — those without substantial patios — are now seeing in their monthly revenues. For some, it's meant some creative interpretations of the ban's strictures.

"We've looked over every inch of the bylaws," said Jen Agg, owner of Cobalt, a soothing oasis of a bar rendered in soft woods, blues and greens on College Street. On Thursday, that study paid off, as Cobalt — officially closed for the evening — held a "Smoking Social," a private function on behalf of a private individual who approached the bar to host his event. No longer open to the public — for one night, at least — Cobalt became private domain, and therefore not subject to the smoking ban.

"It's sort of a `take back the night' thing," Agg said. And though the rules have to be strictly observed — "every single person in the bar will have to be invited. And that's how we get around the law," Agg said — any payoff is worth it.

"I would say our business is down by about half," said Agg, perched on one of the bar stools near a towering vase filled with star lilies. "The first day of the ban, we had a good night. Maybe it was a novelty thing, but I thought, oh, okay — everything's going to be fine. But then it just plummeted."

It's been a serious blow, not just to the bottom line, but to what she's created. "You build this business, and you're proud of it, and all of a sudden the city makes this blind decision," she said. "I know they did it in summer to give smokers a chance to adjust to it, but places like us get totally screwed."

The private function is a strategy Agg intends to ply at least three more times — "The aim is to do it monthly," she said — but for others, it's a matter of waiting and hoping.

"The winter will tell," said Bowring. "In January we'll know whether people are going to go out, or if they'll just stay home — or until next patio season, when there'll be no bars left to go to."

For Matthews, surviving into the winter will be no easy task. "I'll figure something out, but it's a huge stress," she said. "It's funny, you know. I thought the people who loved the Cameron for what it was would always support us. It's really surprising to me that smoking is more important to them, but it is."

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(Login steelblue)


August 4 2004, 5:00 PM 

Hi Trawna,

Montreal is doing great, and so is the rest of Quebec, and no one complains. A few losers that are part of Gatineau and being pressured by a few more Ottawa losers would like to have one big Gestapo family, but no one else is interested.

Ottawa is a ghost town, with taxes that have gone thru the roof due to complete idiots at City Hall, who broke every promise known to taxpayers.

Like I said before, we are hiding the fact that tax revenue is down large, and being made up for by homeowners in property taxes. It just happened in Ottawa.

No one will visit the land of professional job squatting cheats and liars, as there are many more destination choices where cheap politics are not part of the entertainment


(Login trawna)

Now, there's another problem...

August 6 2004, 4:26 PM 

Property taxes.

Dullton lifted the cap on commercial property taxes, so "Boronto" took that ball and ran with it. My property taxes on my house were going up $300.00 every year, but now, my rent is going to go up on my business because they've hiked commercial taxes by 1.5%. I may be wrong; it may be more.

They must have lost their minds. Toronto offers NOTHING to small business, nor does it make any business want to stay here. Already, others are thinking of leaving. On my street, there's a fruit and vegetable store owner who has rent of $8,000.00 a month! Since I've been planning my move, she's been asking me lots of questions about Niagara. She wants to leave, as do others on my street.

Hopefully, once the city gets a load of the losses for the province and the Feds in PST and GST from our losses in business, maybe they'll smarten up...but I doubt it. They'll just wait until businesses leave, which is what they're doing, before they wake up. By then, it will be too late.

The Tories put a cap on commercial property taxes a long time ago for a reason: there was a 7% commercial vacancy rate in the downtown core because of high taxes. Businesses were relocating in the 905 because of it. Business started to move back in. Now, they're going to be moving back out again.

I have suffered a 30% loss in business since the ban, mainly because my liquor sales plummeted. It could have been worse, but I own a restaurant now, so I haven't lost as much as the bars in the area have. Their losses are around 50%. Now, I have to hike my food prices...SOOOO, the nonsmokers will have to pay more in order to make up for the loss of the smokers. Funny how that works, eh?

In June, when the ban began, I did gain new customers...about 50, but they hardly make up for the losses in liquor sales from the smokers. Let's just say that I'm selling a lot of freakin' salads. Normally, I'm slow during the summer, but everyone is saying that this summer is the worst in my neighbourhood.

So, want to buy a centally located restaurant in Toronto? Ha, ha!

See ya!

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