Fate of laundry business unclear

City inspectors may fine a new Beach laundromat for operating without a business licence, and warn that it opens onto a street zoned only for homes.

But the owner says that’s a wash.

Called Squeeky Queen, the new laundromat faces Willow Avenue and is attached to the Life on Queen apartment building at the corner of Willow and Queen Street East.

Opened in mid-September, Squeeky Queen charges just $1 for a wash or dry.

David Weiss, president of Life on Queen, said by email that the laundromat follows all city regulations.

“If I were operating an illegal business, The City would of closed me down, but it didn’t,” he wrote.

Weiss also said the property is in an area zoned for a mix of commercial and residential uses.

But according to a violation notice posted by city inspectors on Oct. 23, that zoning bylaw does not allow Squeeky Queen to have an entrance on Willow, or on other side streets.

Tammy Robbinson, a spokesperson for the city’s licensing department said inspectors have visited the property several times, and could charge the owner $300 in fines for operating without a business licence.

Robbinson said the owner has now applied for one, and it’s unclear if it will be granted.

Alex Winch, who owns the nearby Beach Solar laundromat, said he hopes the city takes action quickly.

“I don’t mind a fair fight,” said Winch, noting that he already competes with Queen Street Coin Laundry down the street at Neville Park, and the Easy Access wash-and-fold at Balsam.

But as a licensed business, Winch said he has costs Squeeky Queen is avoiding.

Winch said he pays about $11,000 per year in commercial property taxes at Beach Solar, plus an annual $200 fee for the business licence.

Being a licensed business can also trigger extra costs, said Winch.

Two years ago, all Toronto laundromats were asked to install special valves to prevent any washing water from flowing back into the city water supply. Winch said they cost him about $5,000 to install, and another $300 to test each year. Beach Solar also participates in a city program to track pollutants, including C02 emissions.

Still, given that a wash at Beach Solar costs between $1.75 and $2.50, depending on the machine, and only $1 at Squeeky Queen, Winch said he is losing business of about $1,000 a month.

Winch said some customers have asked him to start a petition, or to ‘storm city hall.’ But he hopes he won’t have to.

“I don’t think the enforcement of laws is the subject of a petition,” he said. “If someone is being robbed on the street, should we start a petition to ask the police to intervene?”

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As a small business owner, I am totally in support of closing down this laundromat, and any other business that operates without a permit, or is not paying commercial property taxes. That laundromat was only approved by the city as a laundry room for their own tenants. I asked. At no time did the city approve a public laundromat. The landlord also shut down laundry rooms in many of his other buildings. If I were a tenant of his and now had to go a distance to do my laundry, I would be very unhappy. If I were a tenant in this building, I would be even more unhappy. Who wants strangers in their apartment building? If I were a resident on Willow, I sure would not want cars and foot traffic on my street. Legitimate businesses cannot compete, and it’s up to the city to protect legitimate businesses. This could happen to any business, not just a laundromat, and swift, decisive action to shut this renegade down will send a clear message that in the City of Toronto, you need to pay your taxes and follow the law.

Before commenting on the security, you should get your facts straight. Non-tenants do not have access to the apartment building, only the laundromat.

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