By Alyson Queen –
Twice in the same conversation, Jeff Frost has to pause and holler over to drivers attempting to park by his restaurant, The Wellington Diner.
“That spot’s reserved for people with a special permit, you don’t want to get a ticket!”
He knows his customers and he takes pride in his restaurant. He recently hired a new chef and is changing up the menu to be more local.
“We’re built for families. We’re not a bar, we’re not a pub.”
With a palatable price point and a solid reputation in the neighbourhood, he wants to build a patio to capitalize on the summer season.
“I want this next step to give a New York feel for a 50s diner. You could be eating underneath two trees, and it could be a really special thing.”
He’s got the makings of a small urban oasis already, with brick retaining walls forming an outdoor terrace beside the restaurant.
Here comes the problem. He can’t use it.
He can’t get his plans approved by the City.
More than that, he’s spent hundreds of dollars and hours, just to be continuously rejected and delayed at every stage of every application. That includes a revised plan to have large custom windows installed because they would encroach on the sidewalk.
“It’s disappointing to see the hurdles that small businesses go through with the City. When a business is looking to make it a bit easier to operate, and make it a more beautiful space for the neighbourhood – to get shot down is disappointing,” says Zachary Dayler, Executive Director of the Wellington West BIA.
It’s frustrating to have plans rejected, but that isn’t Jeff’s biggest issue.
He waited weeks for feedback and feels he lost both time and money.
“Somebody should be held accountable. To drag someone through these hoops and negotiations at a small business owner’s expense only to say the whole plan is denied? If this was the private sector, someone would be fired.”
So he took to Twitter and people started paying attention, including Councillor Jeff Leiper.
According to Zachary, the challenges and delays with having a patio approved aren’t unique to the Wellington Diner.
“Across the board, businesses are subject to a lot of hurdles in getting patios. Ottawa also has one of the highest fees,” he adds.
Interestingly, the City recently completed a “Sidewalk Patio Review Program.” This year they are creating a new Right of Way Patio By-law to improve service to the restaurant industry and the public. The report is due out this summer.
Councillor Leiper says he is aware of the issues and says he has worked to try and find a solution.
One of those options is a re-zoning proposal. That will mean more expense, starting at $8,500 for the application, not to mention a sound engineering report.
Even if he pursues that, it’s hard to say if he will get his patio for summer 2017.
Despite it all though, while enjoying the morning bustle from the picnic table in his “not a patio,” Jeff is keeping his chin up.
“The reason I want a patio in the first place is to serve my customers and Kitchissippi.”
“I’ll build whatever the City allows me build.”