A local business owner on Locke Street plans to expand his business, but some neighbouring residents are concerned.
By Adrian Duyzer
Published June 16, 2006
Joe Stanicak, owner of the West Town, has bought the two adjacent properties and wants to make the open space beside the corner building into the patio of a dessert bistro (RTH file photo)
Joe Stanicak, owner of the West Town Bar & Grill, has purchased the rest of the property between the West Town and the corner of Locke and Chatham streets. He's applied for a liquor license that includes indoor and outdoor seating for the property.
Some residents are opposed to his plan on the grounds that it will be noisy and disruptive, and a campaign called No Hess on Locke has sprung up to oppose it. (RTH's interview with the founder of No Hess on Locke was not completed in time for this article.)
Stanicak believes the concerns about his new business are unjustified. He says he's opening a "bistro", a place to purchase crepes, panini sandwiches, pizza by the slice, ice cream and specialty coffees. According to Stanicak, the bistro will feature a small patio with a food preparation area so people can see their meals being made.
The liquor license is so that "people can have a glass of wine with their cappuccino".
"The patio will seat fifteen, maybe twenty people," he says, "and I'm going to close by 10:00 pm".
The West Town opened fifteen years ago and Stanicak now employs forty-seven people. He says he'll hire another twelve to fifteen employees if his plan goes forward, "probably teenagers because I won't be serving much liquor".
"I just want to do something nice for Locke Street, for this community," he says. "The street needs something like this."
Not all of his neighbours are convinced. I attended the June 12 Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association meeting to get the other side of the story (because of the nature of the meeting, I wasn't able to get the names of those who spoke up). Stanicak was there as well, and after describing his plans for the expansion, he responded to questions from local residents.
"If you're only opening a fifteen-seat patio, why did you apply for a forty-seat outdoor liquor license?" asked one woman.
"I did that to get the process started," responded Stanicak. "I'm still going over the plans with the engineer I've hired, but to get things going, I needed to apply for the license. Our current plans are for twenty-five to thirty seats inside and fifteen seats on the patio."
Stanicak promised to make his final plans for the expansion public "in the next week or so".
Another resident listed his concerns, ticking them off on his fingers one after another: "drunkenness, disorderliness, noise, people drinking and getting into their cars and driving off". He was "concerned for my family," he said, and he felt that Stanicak "just doesn't care".
But Stanicak had supporters as well, including one woman who has "lived on Homewood for fifteen years". She called him a "good corporate citizen" who improves the street. "I've walked past the West Town every day for years, at all times of day and night, and never once have I seen a problem."
According to Sergeant Jeff Copp, Crime Manager for Kirkendall and two other neighbourhoods, the West Town has been the source of only four calls since January, one of which was placed by a West Town employee regarding a dine-and-dash incident.
The West Town (RTH file photo)
The conflict over the West Town Bar & Grill's proposed expansion is typical. On the one hand, a business owner who wants to build on success; on the other, neighbours who fear that that growth will diminish their quality of life.
On booming Locke Street, it can be a difficult balancing act. A common concern is parking. With his new property, Stanicak has another six to eight parking spaces, but he needs more to fulfill zoning requirements that mandate one parking space for every six seats.
He can pay the city cash in lieu of providing spaces, but this just means people will park on the street. For people who live nearby and rely on street parking, it's frustrating when parking spaces are filled.
Unfortunately, business owners don't have many options when it comes to parking: either they have spaces, or they don't. Leaving storefronts empty because there's not enough parking is not a good solution.
It's counter-productive to inhibit the success of local businesses to better service our car culture. Improved public transit would help, and moving to permit-only parking on side streets may eventually be necessary.
As Hamilton's downtown turns the corner and starts attracting people from the suburbs instead of making them flee, the issues affecting Locke Street will be the issues facing the entire downtown.
These are the kinds of issues we should welcome, because there's no noise of conversation, no bustling patios, and no lack of parking in decaying urban cores.
Stanicak has promised to work to address the concerns of residents and communicate clearly his plans for expansion. Residents ought to welcome yet another sign of increasing prosperity on Locke Street. I'm looking forward to having a beer - I mean a crepe - on a sunny little patio at the corner of Chatham and Locke.
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