July 6, 2005

Queen W. patio war ends in truce
The Beaconsfield and neighbours may soon drink together

Residents within one-block radius of bar to vote on plan


The patio tussle is a contemporary urban ritual that unfolds according to a few basic rules.

An energetic restaurateur or bar owner opens on a busy Toronto street corner and finds he needs outdoor seating to compete. So he asks the city for a permit to put a patio on his restaurant's residential flank. People who live nearby flip out, objecting to the noise late-night drinkers and diners will bring to the neighbourhood.

In the end, local politicians weigh in to decide the patio's fate — and someone goes home in tears.

The latest such drama played out with a twist yesterday afternoon at city hall. This one pits The Beaconsfield, a hot spot situated on the it strip of Queen St. W. — against a group of local residents who say the place is a nuisance even without a patio.

Misha Glouberman, a well-known local arts personality, leads the residents. He and The Beaconsfield both moved to Queen St. west of Dovercourt last year. This stretch of the city has come alive since the Drake Hotel reopened last winter, becoming an instant magnet for hipsters, suburban gawkers and businesses looking to cash in.

From the start, Glouberman and The Beaconsfield were at odds. "We try very hard to get along while wanting different things," said Glouberman.

What he and the 100 other residents who signed his anti-patio petition want is a respite from the belligerent drunks they say spill nightly from The Beaconsfield and assault their senses.

What one of the bar's four owners, Eric Yealland, wants is to give his boutique bar a chance to compete with the juggernaut across the street — the Drake — which has seats for 40 on Beaconsfield Ave. plus a rooftop bar with room for hundreds more. Now that summer's here, The Beaconsfield's business has started to migrate across the way, Yealland said, and he has had to let go of two employees.

The Beaconsfield originally wanted to put 140 seats outside, but that number had been whittled way down by yesterday afternoon, when Yealland was in city Councillor Adam Giambrone's office trying to strike a compromise with Glouberman.

Glouberman complains the city didn't poll locals like him — people who rent apartments along Queen St. W. — during the permit application process, seeking opinions only from residents of Beaconsfield Ave. That group supported the patio bid.

In 2002, a similar fight played out at the corner of Harbord and Major Sts., when restaurateur Giancarlo Carnevale tried to get a patio for Olive & Lemon. That restaurant opened to favourable reviews in 1999, but suffered a serious drop in business during summer because, Carnevale says, it didn't have a patio.

Over the next three years, Carnevale says he spent almost $400,000 fighting a group of Major St. residents led by CTV news reporter Peter Murphy.

The city councillor in the Olive & Lemon fight, Olivia Chow, sided with residents — who polled against Olive & Lemon's patio — but Carnevale kept pushing and city council overturned Chow's decision in a late-night vote.

Three years later, Carnevale has 40 seats on a patio that serves until 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and closes at 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. He says business is up "3,000 per cent" and claims relations with his neighbours are better than ever.

"People on the street think the patio looks beautiful," he said.

Murphy still lives on Major St., but won't eat at Olive & Lemon and says the patio fight has divided the neighbourhood.

The corner of Beaconsfield and Queen may fare better. By yesterday evening, a deal had been struck. Yealland, Glouberman and Giambrone had agreed on a patio for The Beaconsfield with 35 seats that will shut down at 10:30 p.m. The plan will be voted on this month by anyone living within a one-block radius of the bar. If it passes, The Beaconsfield's owners have promised to stay in touch with residents about their concerns.

And if all goes according to plan, the neighbourhood will be spared more bitterness. "I'm delighted," said Glouberman.

"I'm thrilled," said Yealland. "We're part of the community — we want our neighbours to sit on the patio with us.