Volume 95, Issue 37
Wednesday, November 7, 2001
Restaurant workers: "Don't kill our jobs"
Protest takes aim at councillor
By Joel Brown
A number of London bars are afraid they may be forced to switch to restaurant status and thus be subject to a smoking bylaw set to take effect next year.
Conflicting opinions on how a restaurant or bar should be defined, in case of potential disagreements, forced the delay of a smoking by-law decision at Monday's London city council meeting.
When the smoking bylaw goes into its final phase on Jan. 2, 2002, patrons will be permitted to smoke in bars, but not restaurants. However, many London bars, who consider themselves to be hybrid bar/eatery establishments, are concerned they will be labelled as restaurants just because they provide food.
According to Dan Baker of the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association, the concern stems from a series of inspections this summer by London's health unit after which many bars were told they fit the criteria for restaurant status.
City solicitor Bob Blackwell's proposal to settle any potential disputes through a non-binding arbitration panel of three independent and, for now unnamed persons, was rejected by city councillors at Monday's meeting due to lack of clarification, said Ward 1 city councillor Sandy Levin.
City council told Blackwell to clarify with the London-Middlesex Health Unit how the bylaw will be enforced and report back to the Community and Protective Services committee Nov. 26, Levin said.
In his report to council, Blackwell said, upon review of the bylaw, it is plausible for restaurants and bars to co-exist under a single establishment, Levin said.
However, city councillors disagree.
"The by-law was agreed upon six year ago, I don't understand why there is a dispute now," Levin said, an outspoken supporter of the bylaw. "I think lawyers [for the restaurant and bars] were drinking one night, thinking of ways they can elude the new bylaws."
Levin said the idea of the mediator was unnecessary and a waste of resources because, he believes the bylaw clearly states what is and is not a restaurant.
"A bar should not be punished just because they have chosen to serve good food," Baker said, adding it is "nearly impossible" to get a liquor license in Ontario without serving food.
During the meeting, several London restaurant workers sported anti-Levin t-shirts to show their disapproval. The front of the shirt had a picture of Levin and the back of the shirt read, "Don't kill our restaurant jobs."
"It wasn't meant to be malicious, it was just a group of people who got together to save their jobs," said Joe Kool's owner Mike Smith. "It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek kind of thing."
Levin said he found the jab amusing.
"There was more pictures in the gallery than my mom has," he said. "It was a good picture."
Copyright © The Gazette 2001