Bloorcourt businesses search for ways to improve local economy

A retailer in the Bloorcourt area of west Toronto says if the city issued fewer liquor licences his community would be safer and business would improve.

In recent weeks, some business owners in the Bloorcourt neighbourhood have expressed a need for improvements in order to stimulate the economy. Complaints range from slow business to crime to the distribution of liquor licences.

Home Hardware owner, Farooq Karim, at 934 Bloor St. W., said that while business is not bad for him he would like to see efforts to make the area safer at night.

“Almost all the crime (in this area) happens at night when the bars are open,” he said.

Karim said he’d like to see fewer liquor licences issued in the community.

“They’re giving too many liquor licences in this small area. We brought it to the attention of the city,” he said. “They make money from them, so they don’t care.”

Former chair of the Bloorcourt Business Improvement Area (BIA), Lance Lehman, doesn’t believe it would be right to deny liquor licences based on the existing number in an area.

“I think this is a selective strategy,” Lehman said. “Opposing all liquor licences is … unfair. It all depends on the applicant.”

Karim has been in business for 27 years. He said that crime and disturbances began when more liquor licences were issued in the area. He said ensuring that Bloorcourt is a family friendly area is important both to residents and businesses.

Another concerned business owner, Daniel Oghbazghui, of La Festa Pizza at 281 Bloor St. W., said that in the three years his business has been open he can only recall one shooting in the area.

“I’m not worried about crime. We don’t see bad people around this neighbourhood,” he said.

Lehman said the scare of crime becoming a major concern is an overreaction.

“This has been overblown. I do not believe that there is an infiltration of undesirable elements,” he said.

However, he said there are ways of preventing this before it becomes an issue.

“Crime is ever-present. We as a BIA do what we can to educate our members to identify and report it, as well as seeking to change the streetscape in ways that discourage crime,” Lehman said.

If there’s one thing Oghbazghui could change he said it would be the absence of high-rise buildings.

“Business is very slow. Almost dead,” he said. “It would be good (for business) if they would (encourage the construction of) high-rise buildings. More offices means more publicity in buildings.”