No farmers’ market for Kew

Is it right that a private corporation enjoys a monopoly over our public park lands and can decide which groups use a public park and on what terms? What if, for example, a group wanted to establish a weekly farmers’ market at Kew Gardens?

On or about June 2, 2010 the City of Toronto granted a sole-source contract (which means no other bids were allowed) to Tuggs Incorporated over the then Boardwalk Café, the patios, the parking lots, the Sommerville and Kew Gardens concession stands and four parks: Woodbine Beaches, Ashbridges Bay, Beaches, and Kew Gardens parks. This exclusive lease was granted until 2028. The city gave Tuggs a monopoly over the restaurant and patios, and exclusive vending rights for food and beverages over the park lands and the two concession stands.

The city also gave Tuggs exclusive “sponsorship rights.” This means that groups and organizations that want to hold an event in the park lands must have permission from Tuggs. Tuggs determines the price and the general terms of use. Tuggs keeps 85 per cent of the revenue. The city gets 15 per cent, even though it is public parkland being used.

There was a large public outcry in 2010 when the proposed lease caught the attention of the media, mostly because it was being sole-sourced and competitive bids were excluded. This went against the advice of the city solicitor, who argued it should be put to public tender to maximize the benefits and options to the taxpayers. The Tuggs deal was debated at city council “in camera” (behind closed doors) in May, 2010. Later my requests under the Freedom of Information Act to determine the costs to the taxpayers of breaking the lease were denied and held to be privileged and/or claimed not to exist by the city.

A big concern has always been that community groups would find themselves excluded from using the parks for community events. This seems to be happening with a dedicated group of residents trying to organize a seasonal farmers’ market at Kew Gardens. The group has approached Tuggs to ask for a price to use land on the north part of Kew Gardens for a weekly farmers’ market. No price has been given. Tuggs has indicated it cannot support the proposal in Kew Gardens, and made alternate proposals (such as using Woodbine Beach Park immediately West of the swimming pool) which, for the organizers, are not practical or realistic.

Tuggs further asked the group to provide, among other things, a brand logo, a three- to five-year business plan, a letter of support from local businesses, a letter of approval from the parks department, the names of the 20 farm vendors who would be participating, full liability insurance, and much more. Not only would this take months to organize by volunteers, in the absence of a price and terms the group cannot approach prospective vendors. Vendors cannot commit without knowing the price and terms.

The proposed seasonal farmers’ market with all its community benefits has no starting point. Even if the organizers delivered on this long list, Tuggs can still say no in its sole discretion. There is no appeal.

If proposed community events such as a weekly farmers’ market in Kew Gardens were overseen by the city and not a private corporation, there would be an elected councillor and staff to assist, an avenue of appeal based on municipal law, and ultimately a city ombudsman to help if required. This has all been precluded by the private monopoly that was granted.

One solution would be to ask the city legal department to report to council the cost of amending the lease to release the parklands. The best solution is for community groups and residents to determine how to enjoy public parks. The “privatization” of our public parks for profit is bad public policy all around.

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TUG’s is mean spirited, the original intention was to prevent people from competing with the business of a restaurant or food stand. TUGG’s could request that no vendor sell snack food or meals along the water front or board walk, but anything north of 50 metres from Board walk should be excluded.

Give Tuggs the bill for maintaining the parks then

Thank you for drawing attention to a completely unacceptable situation. It’s impossible to understand how or why the City gave away so much for so long in this deal, and how it is that Tuggs gets so much benefit while providing so little in return. A “dog in the in manger” arrangement crying to be redressed.

If the TUGs deal wasn’t in place, the boardwalk would be lined with french fry and taco trucks by now. I disagree with the increasing amount of commerce occurring in our parks and on the beach in Ward 32. I am glad Kew Gardens is not yet becoming just another grocery store in the park. I believe people should use the park to appreciate nature and get fresh air.

No it would not be lined with all that, the city’s contract with Tuggs has nothing to do with protecting the park from other commercialization. In fact, the City’s strict policy against park commercialization means that if there were no deal with Tuggs, there would be NO vending of any kind unless the City itself wants to dish out permits and evaluate events. Which it would rather not deal with, which is why the City made this deal in the first place, so they can take a 15% cut of whatever comes through, without having to lift a finger dealing with all the administration.

You disagree with the commerce in our parks? Other than the farmer’s markets at East Lynn and Leslieville, and in Kew the once a year crafts market and of course the Christmas tree sales, what is all this commerce? And is a once a week farmer’s market for less than half the year such an abhorrent use of our park? And a farmer’s market IS appreciating nature, and bringing local food to be sold in the fresh air. It’s one MORE reason to come enjoy the park, it’s an enhancement not a detraction. Not to mention there is a community food garden starting up in Ashbridges Park, so it may have a place to display its success.

This is not about how the park is being used, it’s about the fact no matter how we as a community wish to use Kew Park, there is a private monopoly holding the keys.

It’s a ten minute walk from Kew to Leslieville. You can do it!
Farmer’s Markets are about appreciating agriculture, not nature.
The worst air quality I have ever experienced in the Beach was at the Leslieville Farmers Market when they whole roasted a wild boar and filled the park with thick acrid smoke. I buy my organic local produce at Wholesome Market and the Big Carrot and Raise the Root so that we will have access to good produce all year round, not just when the weather is good. I go to the park for fresh air and to hear the birds sing. One man’s enhancement is another man’s grocery store in the park.

Agreed – but TUGs also prevents such things as a non-profit kite festival and other non-profit events

The deal with Tuggs is ludicrous. Dozens or hundreds of restaurants would have been happy to bid on that contract and the area could certainly support more than ONE entity. In the dictionary under “Sweetheart deal,” it says, “See Tuggs, Toronto.”

This neighbourhood is well overdue for a farmer’s market — these are vibrant, important gatherings that connect people with their food. Surely our councillor could work with Tuggs to find a solution that would allow a weekly market at Kew Gardens. I can’t imagine that organic kale sales would dent demand for concession food, or any other Tuggs’ fare. If Kew cannot work, what about Glen Stewart Park as an alternative location?

I would love to see a seasonal farmers market at Kew Park. Saves gas driving to those outside our neighbourhood and would likely have positive spillover effect on our local businesses as it may well draw in our neighbours from outside the Beach area. It’s one thing to give one company an exclusive long lease for the lakefront though I think thst was wrong for all kinds of reasons. But Kew Park is our community park and should not be controlled by.private business.

I’ve noticed that the businesses near East Lynn do better on Thursday when the market is on. The meat store across the street seems to hire more people to serve the demand.

The parks that Tuggs controls are shared by the entire GTA. Tuggs control has dampened their use. They are less vibrant than they should be. Council made a “mistake”. When we make mistakes we fix our mistakes. Council needs to fix this.

Is anyone at city hall listening?

In my opinion the Tuggs deal was giftwrapped by the infamous Sandra Bussin. I am so glad she is gone. The contract is probably air tight. Sadly we will probably not have the chance to correct it until the lease expires.

I recall dealing with the TUGGs owner/operator (Foulidis) many, many years ago before the lease was renewed. I had planned to sell a few bottles of water for a $1 each for a very limited time in a very limited area near Bellefair and Queen to raise money for the playground redevelopment project there. I didn’t expect to sell more than a few dozen — and I was probably optimistic!

I had gladly complied with a city advise the city of my plan and I was directed to consult with Foulidis. At the time, I didn’t understand who he was. I was only told that it was necessary to seek his consent.

When the conversation began I immediately found that Foulidis showed no interest whatsoever in giving consent — instead he simply smiled and stonewalled. It was a puzzle that he agreed to meet with me at all.

I was so surprised by his reticence, given how modest were my plans.

It was only years later that I learned that “Foulidis” is indeed a private operator who enjoys far too much power over this neighbourhood’s public parks.

It is so regrettable that the city gives up control over our local parks. Here’s hoping that can be fixed. Perhaps the city only needs a skilled negotiator who can find a way to cause M. Foulidis to voluntarily modify the terms of the lease.

Bussin is to blame for this, but McMahon has done nothing in the last 4 years to improve the situation – nor will the city fully disclose the estimated costs for ending or changing the lease with Tuggs.

This situation is getting worse in that:

1. The City is spending $690,000 or more to make changes to Kew Gardens – building a plaza along Queen – Tuggs will be able to lease this out and it won’t do anything to encourage people to come up from the Boardwalk to shop on Queen, and

2. Pantry Park (south of Kew Beach School) is being leased to the School Board for 999 years – this is the only park south of Queen in The Beach *between Woodbine and the Balmy Beach Club) not controlled by Tuggs/Fouldiis – this deal is being done without any public meetings or consultation.

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