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Honourable Cam Guthrie

Mayor, City of Guelph 

Re: City of Guelph Dining District (the “zone”) & patios in parking spaces


Dear Mayor Guthrie,

I am writing this letter to you as an established member of the business community in Downtown Guelph. You are the elected representative of the City responsible for the leadership and direction of Guelph during these unprecedented times. 


It is my understanding that the City of Guelph staff were notified as early as Friday, July 3rd 2020 that the Province of Ontario passed an emergency order to remove the restrictions municipalities have been facing regarding creating patios in parking spaces and beside drive aisles. Recommendations from the Economic Development, Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise City of Guelph Department were to be brought before council on July 15th to assist restaurateurs outside of the Dining District to utilize parking spaces to increase seating capacity. 


Prior to the July 15th council meeting, there was extensive attention and pressure to create and approve the Dining District; however this focus did not include businesses outside the “zone”.  I am aghast that the Dining District gained approval for an unprecedented size of outdoor dining space without going before council. Permanent status was granted to the Dining District on July 8th, well before the opportunity to present to council for debate.


On Thursday June 25th, I submitted a request to the City for a temporary extension of the patio and was given approval to proceed on Monday June 29th. My application contained a proposed layout of the patio, which was identical to the example layout provided from the City. 


On Friday July 17th, I was notified by the Economic Development, Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise City of Guelph Department, that the City revoked approval for my patio capacity, reducing it from 26 persons to 10 or less effective July 22nd, 2020. I received an explanation that “traffic flow patterns” along Carden Street were still under consideration by city staff.


I wonder where the sentiments of your July 7th twitter/- .gif correspondence with Jason Thorne, Professional Planner, Department of Planning & Economic Development at the City of Hamilton have us sitting now? You acted the “braggart” in tweeting “challenge accepted” in regards to which city - Guelph or Hamilton - could acquire more outdoor dining seats. They were already at 80 patios and Guelph seems satisfied with appeasing 17 select businesses that are afforded the benefit and luxury of opening 50 to 200 seat patios at their leisure. These establishments have been given the unfair advantage of prospering at a time when ALL businesses are suffering. The City has even provided public assets (picnic tables and barriers) for these expansions.


It is shameful that the City of Guelph is creating a unilaterally unfair advantage while maintaining the ability from the province to cut the red tape and allow all parties to pivot our business strategies to remain open and economically viable.


I have been running a business on Carden Street for sixteen years - this is the worst case of mismanagement I have ever witnessed! I have been in direct contact with the members of the downtown board on a weekly - and sometimes daily basis. They have been sympathetic and kind, they are at the mercy of the City to create official rules and guidelines for businesses downtown.


There is no feasible way to profitably run a 10 seat restaurant, and we are not allowing patrons indoors at this time given our concern for the health and safety of our employees and community.


While the city continues to “mull over” what traffic patterns will look like on Carden Street, I have lost a significant portion of the viable patio season. Every day the City ponders a resolution is another day of lost revenue.


Spoon-fed commentary in your newly posted YouTube video is in poor taste and features those that receive benefit or offer egobolstering approval of the Dining District. The City has created a potentially high-risk area where social distancing measures may be ignored, regardless of the intent of each establishment. This area was pushed through to fruition without adequate forethought, and now the Downtown Board is taking the blame and managing the fallout. It’s disgusting. Mayor Guthrie, please start mobilizing City staff to focus on the real decisions that need to be made in this community. Otherwise, none of us will be able to weather these unfortunate circumstances.


Regards,


Nicole Hogg

Owner/operator

Atmosphere cafe + etc.

24 Carden Street Guelph ON