Foulidis: bad guy or fall guy?

Construction is underway on the addition to the existing building at the Boardwalk Café at Woodbine Beach Park.

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.

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A few years ago, Community Centre 55 worked with the Toronto Fire Department to host their annual Fire Combat Challenge. Part of the program included Centre 55 inviting inner city kids to the Combat Challenge, during which they had the opportunity to participate in a mini challenge which included wearing fire fihgting hats and coats and negotiating an obstacle course. Centre 55 had received a donation of small bags of potato chips and gave them to the kids. Many of the kids seemed to have not brought a lunch to the program. As soon as Centre 55 begin distributing the bags of chips, one of Foulidis’ staff drove over in a golf cart and started to complain that we were cutting into Foulidis’ business. Furthermore, Community Centre 55 ran, from time-to-time, fundraising BBQ’s to raise money for its charity. They were regulalrity set upon, by Foulidis’ staff about selling hotdogs. (Note that all of the BBQ’s Centre 55 did, had an appropriate permit from the City of Toronto. So an interesting question is who’s in charge? Foulidis or the City of Toronto?)

I think Councillor McMahon is trying to make the best of a bad situtation and looking for a win-win relationship.

My opinion is a personal one and not a reflection of Centre 55, although I worked at Centre 55 for 31 years during which I had enough experience with the conflicts of food and beverage services within Foulidis’ jurisdiction. Furthermore, whenever I tried to reach him by phone, including leaving messages for his staff and sending emails, to negotiate or discuss a program, he never returned my calls.

The reason the local residents don’t go to the Boardwalk Pub is because the food is awful, the place is dirty and the service indifferent. There are many choices in the Beach when deciding where to eat and Boardwalk does nothing to attract our attention. During his off season he could entice locals with specials and events, but he does nothing and just complains about lack of business. In the 12 years I have lived in the Woodbine Park Development, I have never received a single flyer or brochure promoting the restaurant. He claims to be a business man, but obviously not a very good one

I agree with Gaynor Reader, the only good thing about the Boardwalk Pub is the drinks you enjoy on the patio. Even the drinks aren’t very enjoyable as I’ve been there on numerous occasions and the drinks took 10+ minutes to arrive. The food is less than desirable. It’s a shame that this prime location is occupied by such a horrible restaurant. I’d love to see a great restaurant occupy this space.

Living very close to Mr Foulitis establishment the Boardwalk Restaurant/ Cafe/Pub I am very keen to know what is going on and always read any information .I had to chuckle when I read in your last issue quote Foulitis “This is not like there’s a line up of people here all the time. I have to make my money back . Mary Margaret keeps talking about the community. Well the community does not come here. Where’s the community? They’re gone . ” I would say to Mr Foulitis that I have been into your establishment 3 times over the past several years. The first was with a visitor from England , we were not impressed , hoping that it was just a bad day we tried again twice more. Again we were not impressed. The floors were filthy and the windows one could hardly see out of, maybe the community would line up to get in if you would clean up your establishment .

I have a family member who comes with his many friends to play volleyball once a week in the evening , after their game they have a meal together , my brother refuses to step into the Boardwalk and will go elsewhere.

Have been to the restaurant once and that was enough. They were given such great opportunity others can only dream of, but all they could do was screwing themselves. With such negative attitudes, how can they ran a postive business? They certainly don’t deserve the support from the neighbourhood which they probably don’t care much about anyways.

I, most of the rest of you, have been there, I live in the beaches and refuse to go in because the food is horrendous, lack of atmosphere and it is filthy. Plus, I don’t agree with the political side of things would leads me to not recommend the restaurant to anyone I know. Actually, I advise everyone not to go there.

The restaurants that the owner has there are trashy. A low budget breakfast restaurant and a Pizza Pizza. You could make that spot so much nicer. Look what they did at the waterfront ie. Against the Grain. You could put a Joey’s there with a great patio. For burgers and fries have the Licks relocate there. Another idea for a breakfast restaurant is the Boom chain. It looks like the owner is cheap and not concerned with the community. Vote him off the island.

Be creative my friend.

Regular Visitor.

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