Business owners challenge Ward 19 hopefuls on city red tape

Shaun Bowring wants to know how Ward 19’s next city councillor would make it easier for people like him to run a business in the city.

As co-owner of The Garrison at 1197 Dundas St. West, the venue that hosted last night’s Ward 19 city council debate, Bowring expressed his frustration with what he called “the overwhelming layers of the onion of bureaucracy.”

Bowring said it’s been difficult for him and his business partner Lee Van Veghel to keep their bar running smoothly.

“It just seems to be every week there’s something new,” Bowring said. “You’re all consumed running your business anyway, then you add the bureaucracy on top of it and it makes it really difficult.”

Three days ago, Bowring and  Van Veghel received a notice from the city because a portion of The Garrison’s exterior had been spray-painted with graffiti. According to Bowring, the notice said they had to clean the graffiti within a certain amount of time or the city would come and clean it for $95 per hour.

“We’re a fairly new business … It’s really hard right now,” he said as he asked the eight candidates what they would do to make it easier for business owners.

Candidate Sean McCormick said he would look at certain bylaws and consider relaxing them.

“This whole bylaw situation with the A-frame signs and the backyard patios, this is a one-size-fits-all policy that does not fit a lot of areas of Ward 19,” McCormick said.

Toronto currently has a bylaw that regulates the size, location, fees and permit requirements for temporary signs such as chalkboards on private and public property. Bowring and Van Veghel paid $300 for a permit to put an A-frame sign in front of their establishment.

Candidate Jim Likourezos called the A-frame bylaw “a shameless cash grab that’s indicative of what the city of Toronto has been for the last eight years.”

As a former manager of a bar on King Street, Mike Layton said he could relate to Bowring’s pain and offered some insight on his plan of action.

“I think we actually should be enforcing our bylaws and rewarding the good operators,” Layton said.

Although Bowring acknowledged that all candidates agreed the bureaucratic onion should be peeled back, he still felt a little short-changed with their answers.

“I didn’t think they gave a specific how-to,” he said. “That’s what I was asking for. A little direction. Just a pointer.”