T.O. Restaurateurs Look to New Mayor to Solve Problems

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TORONTO — Now that Rob Ford has been elected mayor of Toronto, the city’s restaurant community — at more than 7,000-restaurants strong — is hoping he’ll hear their voice.

It’s been a trying time for operators who have been burdened with increasing taxation and a litany of bureaucracy, which has impeded their businesses, leading to a loss in profit.

In the late fall, while Ford was campaigning for mayor, the Ontario Restaurant and Hotel Motel Association (ORHMA) organized a session with the politician and several of the city’s restaurateurs. Held at the Pilot restaurant in Yorkville, operator concerns were varied and included a call for a better partnership with the city. “We’ve had no consultation on hospitality-related matters,” said Todd Sherman, vice-president of ORHMA, and owner of Gaby’s Restaurant. “Items have been passed that we haven’t had any impact on. You can’t go to any other city and face the restrictions we have.” According to the operator, many hospitality businesses have thwarted expansion plans due to the stifling bureaucracy in Canada’s largest city. The group cited zoning bylaws, reduced garbage pick up and liquor taxes as three of the most pressing issues. 

Ford assured operators, saying, “If you call or email me you’ll get a response within two days.” He told the group he is the only candidate to have political and business experience and stressed he will be practising a hands-on approach. “My father taught me two rules: number 1, the customer is always right and number 2 read the first rule.”  He vows to take that same approach at City Hall, promising to cut the heavy burden of taxation. “The taxpayer wants to live in a clean and safe city; it’s pretty simple.      

According to Jason Cheskes, president of the ORHMA, Toronto region, the session was a chance for the restaurant community to be heard and ask Ford to listen more carefully should he become mayor.

While Ford was reluctant to make any hard and fast promises until he’s had the opportunity to become better immersed in the issues and fully understand the implications of the city’s finances, he asked operators in attendance to be patient and give him six months to get a clearer understanding of what lies ahead.

And, now the countdown begins as Ford officially becomes mayor Dec. 1.

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