In a town plagued by illegal after-hours bars, is legal liquor a problem or a solution? That’s the question at the heart of a brewing conflict in Weston. Frances Nunziata would like a restaurant in a troubled part of town to stay dry, but being dry would hurt the struggling establishment.
Femi’s Place, at 1812 Weston Rd, is quiet, spacious, and attractive. There is a piano and a stage, and the tables and bar (there are no bottles behind it) are clean. In the back, there are newspaper articles about the owner, Femi Abosede. He is an accomplished saxophone player and, according to the Harbourfront Centre, “the King of Afrobeat in North America”.
Abosede applied for a liquor license earlier this year, but Nunziata wants the license application rejected. Her report to City Council says that she received several complaints about noise and illegal sales of alcohol, which she directed staff to investigate. According to Nunziata’s report, when “inspectors visited Femis [sic] Place… violations of the Liquor Licence Act were observed.”
Residents of Weston Village, within which this establishment is located, are already troubled by the number of licenced establishments in the area which frequently violate the conditions of their liquor licences but still remain in operation. The noise and disruptive behavior caused by the clientele that frequent these establishments has been an ongoing cause for concern; if this establishment obtained a liquor licence the existing problems would only become worse.
But Terri Thompson, the manager, said “It’s not a bar. It’s not a nightclub. It’s a family place. It’s not the kind of clientele who’s going to sit there and spend their last dime drinking.”
While we visited, there were no other customers, but Thompson was upbeat. She said, “business is OK. It’s decent. I can see it booming with a liquor license. In a day, I turn away three of four couples; they want to have a beer, but because we don’t have a liquor license, they don’t want to come in.”
The stakes are high. If Frances Nunziata has misjudged the establishment, and if she gets her way, the business will suffer, perhaps close. And that neighbourhood, just south of Lawrence, needs all the help it can get. Two young men, Courthney Facey and Mike James, were shot to death near Femi’s Place late last year. Some early reports and rumours placed the men in an illegal bar before their murders, though Facey was not old enough to drink. Another young man, Jahmelle Grant, 26, was shot to death in 2009 while trying to break up a fight outside an illegal bar just down the street, at 1764 Weston Rd.
Thompson said that she had never heard from Nunziata about the application. She said, “I never got a phone call from her. I would like the opponents to show how it would be [against] the best interests of the community . I would never allow any trouble. This is my place of work.”