Toronto councillors have turned down a bid from a local burger chain to set up a restaurant on the refurbished Nathan Phillips Square in front of city hall.
Members of council’s government management committee voted 4-1 to cancel the bid, won by Hero Certified Burgers, a 41-store chain that features Angus beef from Alberta.
They want to look for another operator with a more “diverse” offering for the new restaurant designed as part of the $51 million overhaul of the square.
Hero and three other companies responded to the city’s request for proposals, issued in August. Staff recommended Hero’s bid because it had the highest overall technical score and highest financial benefit.
“We put in an offer, we got selected, and I guess they don’t want us,” said John Lettieri, president and founder of Hero Certified Burgers.
“But what am I going to do, stand up and bark? I don’t want to do that. If they don’t want us there, they don’t want us there.”
Lettieri added he would be more upset if the city rolled out a new request for proposals and awarded the opportunity to another burger provider.
“We believe that this is a great fit for Nathan Phillips Square,” he said. “It’s a premium product. My personality is not to fight with these guys, but if it’s my competition that’s going in, then I’ve got issues.”
City hall is already served by food trucks stationed on Queen St. that offer hamburgers, said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents the downtown area.
Wong-Tam said the city should explore a partnership with culinary schools in the city.
“I think we want to be able to add to the experience of those coming down to the square and make it as special as possible.”
Councillor Paul Ainslie, chair of the committee, said councillors want to see something unique.
“We’ve invested a lot of money in Nathan Phillips Square, and overall, we’d just like to see a more diverse food offering. Nothing against Hero Burgers,” Ainslie said.
“We think there are a lot of opportunities in the city for more diverse food offerings with different partners, whether it’s culinary schools or somebody that will come in and showcase Toronto chefs.”
The staff report can be found here.
Also Monday, the committee endorsed the Toronto Port Authority’s offer to pay tax arrears on its properties, which include the island airport, port holdings and the Outer Harbour Marina.
The city has been battling the port authority since 2003 over the tax arrears, which the city estimated at $37 million in 2009.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, a frequent critic of the port authority, said the city should seek a better deal.
“They’re getting a tax break,” Vaughan said. “We haven’t ratified the agreement yet, so I’m not allowed to talk about it, but the settlement is for a lot less than we’re owed.”
Vaughan said he thinks the city should refuse to sign deals with the port authority on other issues until the taxes are settled.
“I don’t know why we’d want to enter into agreements with someone who refuses to pay taxes.”