Robbery on Weston Rd

Your humble correspondent loves to smoke cigarettes; the nicotine helps him maintain a delicate state of cognitive dissonance.

Even wrapped in an enrapturing wreath of smoke, however, this reporter would never have contemplated that a man would rob and risk imprisonment to feed a tobacco addiction.  Yet, apparently, a man will, for a man did, earlier this week in Weston.

Toronto Police report that Rick’s Market and Movies at 1925 Weston Road was robbed by a man who approached the counter and requested a carton of cigarettes. He grabbed it from the teller’s hands before fleeing south on Weston Rd.

Police are seeking a wheezing male in his early 20s.

1925 weston rd

Another Licence Application Challenged

Councillor Frances Nunziata is seeking to protect us from another licensed restaurant, this time at 1784 Jane Street. According to our councillor, complaints were received regarding ‘drug activity, late night noise, and late-night construction’ at this address.

It seems that the previous tenant is in rent arrears and so is probably not behind the application to open a licensed restaurant.

With the public not having access to the complaints in question, the councillor may be treading on shaky ground. Are the complaints legitimate? If so, why visit upon the new tenants the sins of the old ones? Is this unnecessarily impeding the birth of fledgling businesses? Certainly, our police are capable of enforcing laws and responding to noise complaints, yet this is the second straight month that the councillor has opposed a licence application in York South Weston. If a licensed restaurant is not in compliance with the law, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) can fine them up to $5000, suspend or revoke their license. A restaurant could continue to operate but would not be allowed to serve alcohol.

There are some important issues here that need to be addressed:

  1. When politicians oppose liquor licence applications, the process should be transparent so that business owners (and the public) know that allegations are genuine (and not someone else’s fault) while protecting the identity of the complainants.
  2. A few vocal residents should not be allowed to impede the improvement of our community.
  3. Jane Street and Weston Road are commercially zoned and desperately in need of vibrant thriving businesses. Perhaps councillor Nunziata could share her vision for these streets and what she is doing to attract businesses that meet her approval.

Sin tax?

If we could be certain that Sin Fronteras (which in English sounds ominous but in Spanish means “without borders”) would be good for Weston, nobody would oppose licensing it. As we can’t be sure, we must ask whether Sin Fronteras will be worse than the alternatives—and the alternatives are bad indeed. They are the illegal and unlicensed ‘booze cans’, which have been a source of terrible violence and danger in Weston.

Your humble correspondent generally holds to the “keep your enemies closer” philosophy of public morality; he thinks that vices are best made legal and taxed to hell, if only because they otherwise disappear underground and spread. Sin Fronteras, by this principle, should be given a go and kept in the bright public view. After all, perhaps this will be the establishment  that turns Jane into a new Latin Junction. Even if it likely won’t, there is only one way to tell.

Sensible people, though, disagree with this philosophy; Jennifer Cicchelli and Frances Nunziata are among them.

Jennifer Cicchelli, Frances Nunziata’s executive assistant, took the time to respond by email to yesterday’s post on the new Weston establishment applying for a liquor license. In her email, Cicchelli clarified their experience with managing troublesome businesses:

I was informed [by the AGCO] that while we have been told in the past that owners can take a suspension to avoid a hearing, and consequently avoid a review of their liquor licence, this information is not accurate. It was explained to me that whether there is a hearing or not, the licence is reviewed.

I would also like to clarify the comment I made regarding places opening up as restaurants and then operating as nightclubs. The AGCO is not responsible for enforcing the use of the premises as stipulated on their business licence – this is something the City is responsible for. When I wrote the email I did not intend to imply that all the issues I noted fall under the jurisdiction of the AGCO. What I was trying to convey was that, from our experience, problem establishments which are licenced to serve alcohol are not easier to “close down” than those that are serving alcohol without a licence. The AGCO itself does not have the authority to order an establishment to close down. They only have jurisdiction with respect to the serving of alcohol.

If these experiences are generally true, Sin Fronteras could turn out to be as bad as the alternatives, which is hard to imagine. If problem establishments are just as hard to shut down as unlicensed ones, it is very important to do the job right the first time, and to license those places that will not be a drag on an already labouring community. However, according to Cicchelli, the bar’s owner is not reaching out to the councillor’s office to make his intentions clear.

Nunziata asks AGCO to reject a second Weston bar

Frances Nunziata and the Etobicoke-York Community council don’t want a bar to open on Jane St. Last month, Nunziata and City Council also opposed the liquor application of Femi’s Place, a restaurant on Weston Rd.

In her letter to council, Nunziata says residents “have reported several concerns to my office regarding the ongoing activity in and around the building at 1784 Jane Street in which Sin Fronteras is to operate.” Jennifer Cicchelli, Nunziata’s Executive Assistant, said in an email that the “problems reported include allegations of drug activity, late night noise, and late-night construction.”

Neither Nunziata nor Cicchelli say, however, that the people behind the application are causing the problems.

According to Cicchelli:

“Legal” bars are part of the problem.  In Weston in particular, specifically, places open up as restaurants and then operate as bars and/or nightclubs. Some of the problems encountered include alcohol being served after hours, alcohol being served to minors and serving people who are already noticeably intoxicated.  While the AGCO issues licences, they rarely revoke them. The owners can either take a suspension or go to a hearing at which point their licence is reviewed. It is not uncommon for owners to just  take a suspension to avoid going to a hearing. We have some “restaurants” in our ward that have violated the conditions of their Liquor Licence over and over again, yet they have not had their liquor licence revoked, despite pleas from the Councillor and area residents to the AGCO.

Once identified, it is easier to close down “illegal” bars or booze cans than it is to deal with problem establishments that have a liquor licence.
Currently, there is a notice of arrears posted on the door of the building. The previous tenants, a beauty supply company, owe more than $10,000.
Photos by Roy

King St residents to be surveyed for speed humps

King St residents will soon decide whether they want speed bumps on their street.

Etobicoke York Council directed city staff to survey residents to see if they want the humps. If more than half of those surveyed respond, and if more than 60% vote in favour, the humps can go ahead. In the past, though, few surveys have had enough respondents.

King St residents, among whom your  humble correspondent numbers, should vote in favour. Traffic speeds increase closer to Jane St. Some drivers managed to go faster than 65 km/h between Pine and Jane even with the enormous potholes, according to the city report.

Speeds and numbers will likely increase when John St is closed and the road is repaired. Further, some of the other east-west streets in Weston recently got humps; those humps will push traffic toward King unless residents object.

If the residents vote in favour, nine humps will be installed, at a cost of $33,000.

 

Mugging at Jane and Lawrence

Toronto Police report that two young men were mugged at the corner of Jane and Lawrence last week.

Four men approached the pair and demanded their cell phones and cash. One mugger said that he was armed, but, according to police, did not show his weapon. The muggers also demanded the victim’s bank PIN number, and the victim provided it.

You can see a map of the muggings in the Weston area here.

Excellent article on, of all things, front-yard parking

Regular readers will know that no news is too small to report for WestonWeb. This humble correspondent will cover leaves falling if it’s a slow day. He does so sure in the belief that small news matters to the people who make it.

However, it’s a little unusual to find a smart, sympathetic treatment of tiny issues in the major media. This week, though, Tim Foran, from InsideToronto, wrote an excellent article on front-yard parking in Weston. Foran takes a tiny topic to drill into the walls around City Hall. With the facade cracked, some of the absurdities poke through.

Front-yard parking can be hard on a neighbourhood, and so it must be approved by the city. City staff survey the neighbours, and if enough of them give their thumbs up, the parking spot can be approved.

But there’s a catch: more than half of the people surveyed need to respond, otherwise the application is rejected. And most of the time, people don’t respond.

City staff refused [a] Weston resident’s application for a front yard parking pad even though her Somerville Avenue property met the city’s restrictive criteria determining eligibility and she agreed to the landscaping requirements for permeable paving material and planting of a tree, said Nunziata.

The hangup preventing city staff from approving Catania’s application is that only 35 of 80 ballots sent by the city to her neighbours were returned, less than the minimum 50 per cent response rate required for a poll to be considered valid, states Nunziata’s letter. Of the 35 residents who voted, 91 per cent approved of Catania’s application. “If the rest of the people don’t care enough or have a vested interest in voting, then why does their voice speak so loudly?” questioned Catania, who intends to make a deputation to the public works committee Wednesday morning in support of Nunziata’s request. The councillor is asking staff for their recommended solution but she suggests the ballots could state clearly a non-vote will be assumed to mean there’s no objection. The required minimum response rate could then be abolished, she states.

We’ve seen this in Weston a number of times before. Speed humps on MacDonald and John were rejected by staff because too few residents responded. Community Council overruled the staff. King St will soon get the same kind of survey.

But residents cannot, as far as I know, make an appeal if council doesn’t want speed humps. In a wonderful twist, it turns out that $750 will buy you a front-yard parking spot if your neighbours couldn’t be bothered to say no:

Residents [can] pay a non-refundable fee of $748.03 to make these appeals.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” said Nunziata.

Catania isn’t too thrilled about that idea either.

“Basically we could pay for a yes,” she acknowledged. “That sort of irks me, the whole concept. It just doesn’t sound like the process is right when the people can pay another $750 and then it will go through.