There seems to be no end to the drama that surrounds the Boardwalk Restaurant – or is it Pub, or Café?
Regardless of what the name is, it seems to be a political mess planted right here in the Beach for the long haul.
The most recent chapter in this ongoing power struggle had George Foulidis, owner of Tuggs Inc., which runs the restaurant, ask the City to refund all or part of the development fees he paid in September of 2011 when he acquired a permit for the renovations and expansion of the restaurant.
Foulidis’ lawyers argued that since their client doesn’t actually own the land, or the premises, he should be exempt from paying the development charge of $52,312.61, and the education development charge of $3,548.49.
Such exemption is outlined in the City’s Development Charge By-law which applies to land that is “owned by and used for the purposes” of the City.
A staff report from the City of Toronto admits that “the City could arguably be considered a beneficial owner under the Developments Charges By-Law.”
Where the real argument arises is whether or not the restaurant is used for the purpose of the City, as in servicing the users of the park.
Foulidis is quick to point to a clause in the Lease Agreement which states that Tuggs is to complete its Capital Improvements in a timely manner “in order that the Tenant can provide service to the general public.” This, in Foulidis’ opinion, implies that his establishment is indeed being used for the purpose of the City.
City staff, on the other hand, have concluded that it does not. The report states that “the mere fact that patrons of the restaurant may also be users of the surrounding parkland does not change the fact that this is a commercial relationship in which the tenant operates a private business enterprise, for profit, and for the benefit of the tenant and not the City.”
The complaint was brought forth to the City’s Executive Committee on Feb. 12 and was quickly dismissed by all members. Mayor Rob Ford did not vote claiming an interest in the matter due to an ongoing litigation with Foulidis.
Ward 32 Coucillor Mary-Margaret McMahon spoke at the meeting and expressed how disappointed she was that Foulidis was fighting the charges.
“I am in disbelief,” said McMahon of the complaint. “I’ve inherited this and I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation. We have extended the olive branch to Mr. Foulidis in the past year, now the twigs are being snapped off.”
Foulidis, in an exclusive interview with Beach Metro News, said he doesn’t understand why the local councillor got involved.
“It’s not a political issue, it’s a business issue between me and the City. It has nothing to do with Mary-Margaret,” he said.
As part of the process, his lawyers asked the City where they found the provisions to charge him the fees. “I’m simply protecting my rights. What is it that I should do? Write another cheque every time they ask me to pay?”
McMahon sees it differently and says that Foulidis is being “adversarial.” She expressed disappointment, particularly since she helped organize an open-house event at the Boardwalk Restaurant late last year to inform the public of the renovation plans.
“I’m really not happy with what he’s doing,” she insisted.
Foulidis stressed that he is in business to recover money invested and to make a profit, and the development charges are being taken away from his bottom line.
“This is not like there’s a line up of people here all the time. I have to make my money back,” he said.
“Mary-Margaret keeps talking about the community. Well, the community doesn’t come here. Where’s the community? They’re gone.”
Frustrated with all the political “non-sense,” Foulidis said he wants the deal to work and claims he’s trying to make the establishment more attractive with the ongoing renovations. He has moved the garbage bins from the parking lot entrance to a more hidden location to the west of the restaurant.
McMahon has recently discussed some of her ideas for the park with Foulidis, including a skating path.
“If Mary-Margaret wants to come down here and instigate a skating park, which is good for everyone, it’ll be good for the community and it’ll be good for my business, and I will contribute to it directly or indirectly with money or sponsorship,” he said.
A meeting between the councillor and Foulidis that was scheduled for Feb. 23 to discuss ‘community beneficial initiatives’ within the park was cancelled by McMahon due to Foulidis’ complaint about the development charges to the Executive Committee.
“I don’t know what we needed to meet about. We had no agenda,” said McMahon when asked about the cancellation.
Construction crews continue to work on the addition to the restaurant.
“By spring or early summer this building will start looking like a building,” said Foulidis.
Some have recently asked Foulidis why he doesn’t just walk away from the whole ordeal.
“Walk away from what? Look at all the money I’m spending,” said Foulidis, adding that if the City wrote him a cheque “with enough zeroes” he’d consider it.
In the past year McMahon has tried to facilitate any issues between Foulidis and the City, but he said that she is not the best person for him to be calling all the time.
“I’m gonna be accused that I have her in my pocket if I were to ask her for help with every issue I have regarding my lease or any breach of the agreement,” he said.
“I contributed $750 to [Bussin] because I thought she was a good lady. I told my friends they should do the same. What’s wrong with that? Every business contributes to a campaign,” he said.
Foulidis is still hopeful that McMahon will eventually work with him on park projects including his own establishment. They have spoken about changing the menu to attract more clientele.
“There’s no other project in this community that can make her shine or look good. This is a city park, this is a good project,” he said.
As part of the agreement with the city, Foulidis holds the exclusive license for selling food and beverages in Woodbine Beach Park. That has aggravated some merchants and some members of the community who want to host events at the beach or at the park, but he insists that he is fair, and exempts many events from paying him commission on food sales, such as charitable organizations.
“I help those causes that are worthy and good, but when someone comes here to do business, then that’s what it is – business,” he said.
Foulidis has also been open with the fact that he’s talking to big name franchises to sublease his establishment, in particular Tim Horton’s.
“I believe the brand can help me do better business and it’s good for the community,” he said of the discussions. “Everyone has killed my brand and I have to rely on other brands.”
He pointed out that for 15 years he ran a Pizza Pizza franchise in the park and that was no issue. He claims that most of the people who come to the park during the summer months come from all over the city, and they are more attracted to popular franchise brands.
“I’ve been getting screwed here for a long time, and I’m getting tired,” said Foulidis. “I’m hoping, and my family is hoping, that we have peace.”
“Regardless of all of the above and specifically the Councillor’s ‘position’, we shall continue to do our best and work with the local community to improve and promote the use and enjoyment of the parklands in all respects,” he said.