A group of just under 30 residents attended a meeting organized by Councillor Frances Nunziata Wednesday night along with representatives from Toronto Police, Municipal Licensing and Standards and Parking Enforcement. The meeting was held in a response to a Somali social club that has opened recently at 2 Rosemount and is allegedly operating in conjunction with the Xaraf Restaurant a couple of doors down. According to residents at the meeting, the social club has caused problems with patrons standing outside at all hours, illegal parking, alleged gambling, noise and one resident claimed she felt unsafe when walking her dog at night.
George Radjenovic, Licensing Enforcement Supervisor said that a licence for the 30 seat restaurant was granted a year ago but the social club is not under his jurisdiction if it is truly private and non-profit. He also stated that groups of people in the club play cards but there is no evidence of gambling. An investigation is under way.
Some 35 parking tickets have been issued since Ms. Nunziata began her campaign. The vast majority of these complaints have been generated from the councillor’s office. Ian Britton from Parking Enforcement said that he has been to the restaurant nearly every day recently. Residents mentioned that the parking situation has created difficulties for themselves as well as businesses operating in the same block although according to Parking Control, nobody from Rosemount had phoned in a complaint. This was challenged by at least one resident. Ms. Nunziata requested that parking enforcement ‘go there four or five times a day until they get the message’. In fact at Etobicoke York Council, she has pushed through a change in the parking regulations from ‘no parking’ to ‘no standing’ generating tougher penalties and towing. This might mean collateral damage for C.R. Marchant middle school on Ralph Street and discussions will be held with the principal.
When asked if she had spoken to the owner of the restaurant / social club, the councillor said no but that she had been by the restaurant a month ago and left her card with the owner’s daughter. She also had a look around the social club.
Following complaints from Councillor Nunziata, Constable Todd McGowan actually took the trouble to visit and introduce himself to the restaurant owner and was taken on a tour of both premises. He found no evidence of wrongdoing.
WestonWeb spoke with Ahmed the owner on Sunday who insisted that the club is mainly for over 40’s who like to sit around, talk and play cards. He insisted that no alcohol is served at either establishment. He seemed like a reasonable man.
The restaurant is a legitimate operation, does not serve liquor and is allowed to have a maximum of 30 patrons at any one time.
At the meeting Councillor Nunziata indicated that future actions will be:
1. Use Parking Enforcement as a tool 4 or 5 times daily and by request from residents to keep club patrons from parking on Rosemount (although it was pointed out that parking problems will probably spill over onto nearby streets).
2. Try to prove that the restaurant and the social club operate as one entity.
3. Try to find evidence of an excess of 30 seats to revoke the restaurant’s license.
4. Try to find evidence of illegal activity at the club through Toronto Police visits.
Unfortunately, Ms. Nunziata neglected to invite social club representatives to respond to residents’ concerns and an opportunity was lost for a compromise and some community leadership. Ms. Nunziata was elected to serve all of her constituents. Pitting one faction against another is much easier than negotiating a solution that all can live with.
So there we have it. If a negotiated solution was possible, nobody has bothered to try. Instead the councillor is making this a wedge issue and flexing her muscles by diverting city departments to do her bidding. A campaign of harassment will include visits by police, parking enforcement and licensing personnel in order to find a way of closing down the club and restaurant. Instead of accommodation, we will have confrontation. Instead of negotiation, the closure of a legally operating (and tax paying) Weston business.
And all of that’s a shame.