Weston does not get the shaft

Today, Toronto’s Mayor and Ontario’s Premier announced that their governments will work together to build subways in Toronto. Unfortunately, those subways will now stop short of  Weston-Mt Dennis.

David Miller’s Transit City plan would have had surface light rail stops at Black Creek, Weston Road, and Jane Street. Mayor Ford’s Eglinton light rail subway will not make it as far, and will terminate at Black Creek instead of passing through Weston on the way to Martingrove. The new, shorter line will cost $8.4 billion, and will be paid for by the province.

Weston is not the only area to lose LRT. The Finch Avenue line will not be built either.

 

More candidates announce intentions

Two more candidates have announced that they will be running in the York South – Weston federal election. Sonny Day will be running for the Green Party, and Jilian Saweczko will be running for the Conservatives.

Day does not appear to have run for election before. According to his bio, he works as a consultant at York University and has lived in Weston for more than 10 years. He has worked with the Greens since 2008. His first campaign meeting was tonight.

Saweczko has run for the Conservatives twice before, in 1997 and in 2008. Those times, she ran in the Parkdale – High Park riding, where she lives. According to her MySpace page, she is an entrepreneur and internet consultant (and makes more than $250,000 a year!). She sells prepaid legal services and Tupperware.

Alan Tonks is the incumbent and will be running for the Liberals. He will be starting his campaign on April 2, with a grand opening of his campaign office from 2pm to 4pm.

Mike Sullivan, longtime Weston activist and resident, is running for the NDP, and was first out of the gate. He launched his campaign before the election was even announced.

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