The same Gore Park storefront that sat empty this time last year is now filled with daily diners, but the city’s focus is on the façade they say doesn’t fit with the character of the area.
Burrito Boyz, which opened in November 2012, was ordered to increase their glass frontage from 28 per cent to 80 per cent to obtain their establishment licence.
Leanne Dielschneider, who co-owns the business with Viktor Stosic, said they’re still paying off startup costs including more than $150,000 to renovate 66 King St. E. (which they rent). Extra façade work is an expense they hadn’t planned for.
Dielschneider, 27, said she and Stosic were aware of the glazing requirement (which falls under downtown heritage character guidelines) when they began renovations, but they were also trying to match the look of Burrito Boyz locations throughout Toronto.
She thought the city would be satisfied when they saw a bustling restaurant. Instead, she and Stosic received a notice two weeks after opening.
“I was told it was hard to open a business in Hamilton,” says Dielschneider, who grew up in Stoney Creek. “I was warned about that … It’s been a smooth ride other than this.”
Dielschneider said she understands the necessity of heritage policies, but finds the glazing issue insignificant compared to the benefits of having business in what was an abandoned space.
She pointed out other buildings within the Downtown Heritage Character Zone, which stretches along Gore Park from James to Wellington. (According to the city’s website, the zone guidelines are meant to be “a city building tool to protect built heritage resources and character in the downtown.”)
“The Bingo Hall is 80 per cent glass,” she said. “Just look around a bit. If I see another Cash Money go in, I’m going to lose it.”
John Lane, the city’s manager of building inspections, couldn’t comment on the details of specific neighbouring properties. He said any business wishing to make façade changes in a character zone since the guidelines were approved in 2006 must adhere to the same requirements. He says fines for noncompliance in a case like this would be decided by a justice of the peace and would likely be below $10,000.
Lane says Dielschneider and Stosic were issued an order to comply with the bylaw as early as July 2012. He said they applied for a revision in October, but it wasn’t granted. Their subsequent application to a committee of adjustment, which increased glazing to 49 per cent, was approved.
Dielschneider said Burrito Boyz will spend Labour Day weekend renovating in order to meet that number.
Kathy Drewitt, executive director of the Downtown Hamilton BIA, said the guidelines are part of the downtown secondary plan and the BIA supports it.
“We would encourage all businesses that are opening a new business in the downtown area to check what the plans say in order to be compliant before they start their renovations,” she said, adding that each of the city’s 13 BIAs are available to talk new business owners through the process.