Bittersweet opening for Salt on Ossington

After waiting a year-and-a-half for an interim bylaw on Ossington Avenue to come to an end, Albino Silva has officially opened the doors to Salt Wine Bar.

Silva, co-owner of the restaurant at 255 Ossington Ave., had been paying the rent out of his own pocket for the duration of a moratorium that prevented new restaurants and bars from opening on Ossington Avenue between Queen and Dundas Streets for one year.

“It was quite stressful financially,” Silva said. “You lose that mental drive that makes you want to do something properly.”

As for how much debt he’s accumulated, Silva said he’s chosen not to calculate it.

“If I look at that, then I’ll become a miserable individual,” he said.

Silva took over the lease in January of 2009 and prepared to open for business within a few months. By May, his plans were halted when city council introduced the moratorium.

The bar freeze came in response to concerns over the neighbourhood becoming another club district, Coun. Joe Pantalone explained.

“Some big clubs wanted to move in on Ossington Avenue,” Pantalone said. “There was a lot of tension between noise, traffic and social behaviour late at night, which was (affecting) the residents.”

The city consulted for six months in an attempt to bring a hastier end to the moratorium. By November 2009, new recommendations to the bylaw came into effect, one of which included capping the maximum size for any bar or restaurant at 225 square metres.

A group of individuals then appealed the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

“By doing that, in effect they continued the moratorium,” Pantalone said. “So it created problems for the businesses that wanted to open up but couldn’t now.”

That meant Silva had to wait longer to open the doors of Salt Wine Bar. So he switched to a retail licence, used his catering licence to serve alcohol, and Salt opened its doors in August 2010.

Silva said he notified the city, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the LCBO that he had opened for business, but by the end of September, he had to close.

“I served alcohol for a little while until a newspaper reporter decided to make a big deal out of it,” he said. “Then everybody came down on me and basically I was told that I had to stop.”

After waiting six weeks, the city informed Silva the moratorium had been lifted and on Tues. Nov. 9, Salt officially re-opened.

“The next step for Salt is to solidify the business as well as we possibly can,” Silva said. “And make sure that the business is an honest, commercial platform that allows the business to prosper as well as the people that work in it.”