This weekend two articles appeared in our local media highlighting the changes in Ossington since the restrictions were put into place on restaurant growth on Ossington. Sarah Barmak has a well researched and well presented article published in the Toronto Star on the growth of the galleries due to the restrictions placed on new restaurants. Another article in Toronto Life, based on the Toronto Star article, points out the new art spaces that have opened or are set to open in the next few months including Angell Gallery, Artscape, and in the old Rolly’s space, Meta Gallery.
A couple of comments made in the Toronto Star article caught my eye:
Jody Polishchuk, owner of Meta Gallery, says he’s happy Ossington didn’t become a club district. “People were worried it was going to turn into a kind of Richmond Street,” he says. “It’s such a gem and it would be a shame for it to go that way.”
People forget that the Richmond club district did not just organically arise from any lack of regulation. It was intentionally put into place by Jack Layton, who was the city councilor for the area at the time, who actively encouraged clubs and bars in to an area that was filled with empty warehouses and sweatshop design/clothing houses. There was, and still is, no way that Ossington could have, or would have, become that way organically. There are too many current bar and restaurants restrictions already in place – outside of the ones put into place by Mr. Pantalone.
Two daytime restaurants and a bakery have closed since Pantalone’s moratorium was put in place – businesses that haven’t been replaced. The councillor says eateries and bars are welcome if they comply with the new rules; what’s wanted, is variety, not just a bar strip.
Mr Pantalone’s comments here demonstrate he obviously hasn’t lived in the neighbourhood or understand how business works. The rules he’s put in place, while somewhat restrictive, offer a chilling effect to restaurants. It’s not that he’s put in the rules, but the point, which Mr Pantalone misses, is that he did it without any warning or notice to the local businesses. And, if you’re a local entrepreneur thinking about starting a business, why go to a place where rules can be changed at a whim of a dim-witted councilor? It’s reason enough to stay away.
We are, however, excited to have the new art galleries in the neighbourhood! I’m looking forward to the new Rolly’s spot, and having those late-night markets going again. Hopefully this summer!