Beach business tenants air concerns
GISELE WINTON SARVIS
Special to the Enterprise Bulletin
WASAGA BEACH - Blocked entrances to businesses through event fencing and blocked views to businesses by truck parking were the biggest problems voiced by waterfront businesses and Main Street Market kiosk lease holders at the beachfront tenant meeting Monday night.
About 35 business owners attended the meeting in the council chambers to voice their concerns to a panel that included Town CAO George Vadeboncoeur and director of economic development and tourism Andrew McNeill. All members of council were present in the audience.
“We lost a lot of revenue with those fenced-in events. I think all the businesses did,” said John Bors, who ran the Blooming Onion kiosk with his wife Natasha in the Main Street Market.
Nick Wazniak, owner of the Ashanti Coffee kiosk said his business was hurt by large event vehicles that parked in front of the kiosks making them “hidden” from view.
Fenced-in events included the Electric Elements electronic music festival and the Wasaga Rib Fest because they were ticketed events.
“We will try to determine a way that access to your businesses are not blocked,” said Jenny Legget, special projects and communications director.
Tim Hortons and BeaverTails franchise owners on the beachfront said large fenced events such as the UG Series Crossfit competition blocked off their businesses and brought in their own food vendors, which offered similar foods.
CAO George Vadeboncouer said approval to some events were given late last fall before leasees were found for all the stores, so the conflict in product offering wasn’t considered.
“We didn’t think of that. We messed up,” he said. “For next year, now that the planning is starting, we will take that into consideration,” he said.
A lease holder for the Tim Hortons, who refused to give her name, said that excuse doesn’t hold water.
“We can’t say that just started. It happened two years ago,” said the business owner who has completed her second year on the beachfront.
Legget said some events need a fenced in area, but suggested that they could be moved further west next summer.
“Our intention is to work with our special events people, the organizers, and have them work with all of you first. . . . We have a lot of work to do. It is certainly going to be a challenge.”
Alex Smardenka, owner of Boston Pizza in Wasaga Beach, asked if large events such as the triathlon or UG Series could be moved to the fall because he said the large events takes up all the parking that discourages beach goers on a summer weekend.
Legget said the triathlon was moved from September to August, because the swimming component had to be cancelled due to strong currents.
With the UG Series event, the timing works with the overall cycle of Crossfit competitions.
“My concern is that we are packed in July or August if the weather is good. It would be nice to have more events in June and September,” Smardenka said.
Legget responded that the Wasaga Beach Blues festival is a September event.
Mayor Brian Smith said, “Council has heard all summer long your concerns. No one wants you folks down at the beach or the kiosks to succeed more than this council,” he said.
He also said business owners should keep up with the news of the municipality.
“Part of the responsibility is yours to be in tune with that,” he said.
He said business owners should be open to post a listing of events next summer for their customers.
“One thing we are all trying to do here is improve tourism and improve the town image,” he said.
Mike Luzar and Rusty Barrese, partners in the beachfront Copa Cabana, asked staff for site plans in advance of major events and more communication between event organizers, business owners and town staff.
Vadeboncoeur said council is offering an opportunity to break the lease without penalty, by doing so in writing by the end of the day Sept. 23.
Conditions to breaking the lease include that rent, suppliers and staff have to be paid in full.
After the meeting he said no lease holders had yet taken advantage of the opportunity.
Over the summer, Bubble Tea packed up and left the town owned building in July without paying rent. The town is pursuing about $7,000 rent through a collections service.
Vadeboncoeur said he would schedule another lease holder meeting in the spring. He also said people can email him suggestions for things that need fixing as he is developing a list of projects to complete this fall and next spring.