Church St merchants have mixed reactions to Pride Toronto’s plans for the street during this year’s celebrations.
While some business owners welcome the crowds, others complain that the crowds and the booths on the street drive away their customers.
“When an event like Pride comes along and plops in front of our businesses it steals our thunder,” says Ted Genova, the owner of Flatirons, which moved back to Church St in April after four years on Maitland. “It’s not a very nice situation for the businesses along Church who should benefit from Pride as well. It’s not very nice when there’s a row of tents in front of your business.”
But Vince Moneva, the owner of Café California, says Pride is the most successful day of the year for his restaurant.
“It’s always positive,” he says. “Our business increases 200 percent maybe. It’s the best time of the year, nothing even comes close. I wish we had two or three Prides a year.”
Fatima Amarshi, the executive director of Pride, says the organization has made substantial efforts to accommodate Church St businesses this year, including meeting with the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA).
“We’ve had two really good meetings,” she says, “One with the BIA and one with their subcommittee on bars and restaurants. Everyone seems pleased.”
Sam Ghazarian, the chair of the CWVBIA, says things have gone smoothly this year.
“The BIA is confident that Pride has recognized the issues from the past and is working with the BIA to resolve them,” he wrote in an email. “Pride has been very proactive this year in making sure that business on Church St are heard and our needs met.”
Amarshi says Pride is trying to spread the booths out this year to sidestreets, leaving more space on Church.
“We’re trying to uncrowd Church between Dundonald and Alexander,” she says. “We’re limiting the number of booths there this year. It’ll give much easier access to businesses’ entrances and generally better capacity for movement and use. We’re still working with the city on permits for the sidestreets for this year.”
Amarshi says some Church St businesses are planning to buy booths in front of their stores. She says they will receive up to a 20 percent discount on the cost of the booths.
But Genova says he’s angered that businesses are being asked to pay for such booths.
“I think the businesses shouldn’t have to pay $500 to put a table outside their store,” he says. “I think that’s outrageous. Businesses on that street pay out exorbitant taxes.”
Genova says he’s encouraged by the meetings Pride has held with local businesses but that there’s still not enough cooperation.
“They’re working to keep spaces in front of the store which is a good step and it’s good that we’re talking about it,” he says. “But there’s an old expression: ‘One hand washes the other and both hands wash the face.’ If you want Pride to be successful you have to work together.
“I want to do well out of Pride. It’s the only way I can pay my bloody rent and taxes.”