Local News

No Crepes on Locke?

A local business owner on Locke Street plans to expand his business, but some neighbouring residents are concerned.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published June 16, 2006

Joe Stanicak, owner of the West Town, has bought the two adjacent properties and wants to make the open space beside the corner building into the patio of a dessert bistro
Joe Stanicak, owner of the West Town, has bought the two adjacent properties and wants to make the open space beside the corner building into the patio of a dessert bistro (RTH file photo)

Joe Stanicak, owner of the West Town Bar & Grill, has purchased the rest of the property between the West Town and the corner of Locke and Chatham streets. He's applied for a liquor license that includes indoor and outdoor seating for the property.

Some residents are opposed to his plan on the grounds that it will be noisy and disruptive, and a campaign called No Hess on Locke has sprung up to oppose it. (RTH's interview with the founder of No Hess on Locke was not completed in time for this article.)

Stanicak believes the concerns about his new business are unjustified. He says he's opening a "bistro", a place to purchase crepes, panini sandwiches, pizza by the slice, ice cream and specialty coffees. According to Stanicak, the bistro will feature a small patio with a food preparation area so people can see their meals being made.

The liquor license is so that "people can have a glass of wine with their cappuccino".

"The patio will seat fifteen, maybe twenty people," he says, "and I'm going to close by 10:00 pm".

The West Town opened fifteen years ago and Stanicak now employs forty-seven people. He says he'll hire another twelve to fifteen employees if his plan goes forward, "probably teenagers because I won't be serving much liquor".

"I just want to do something nice for Locke Street, for this community," he says. "The street needs something like this."

Not all of his neighbours are convinced. I attended the June 12 Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association meeting to get the other side of the story (because of the nature of the meeting, I wasn't able to get the names of those who spoke up). Stanicak was there as well, and after describing his plans for the expansion, he responded to questions from local residents.

"If you're only opening a fifteen-seat patio, why did you apply for a forty-seat outdoor liquor license?" asked one woman.

"I did that to get the process started," responded Stanicak. "I'm still going over the plans with the engineer I've hired, but to get things going, I needed to apply for the license. Our current plans are for twenty-five to thirty seats inside and fifteen seats on the patio."

Stanicak promised to make his final plans for the expansion public "in the next week or so".

Another resident listed his concerns, ticking them off on his fingers one after another: "drunkenness, disorderliness, noise, people drinking and getting into their cars and driving off". He was "concerned for my family," he said, and he felt that Stanicak "just doesn't care".

But Stanicak had supporters as well, including one woman who has "lived on Homewood for fifteen years". She called him a "good corporate citizen" who improves the street. "I've walked past the West Town every day for years, at all times of day and night, and never once have I seen a problem."

According to Sergeant Jeff Copp, Crime Manager for Kirkendall and two other neighbourhoods, the West Town has been the source of only four calls since January, one of which was placed by a West Town employee regarding a dine-and-dash incident.

The West Town
The West Town (RTH file photo)

Balancing Act

The conflict over the West Town Bar & Grill's proposed expansion is typical. On the one hand, a business owner who wants to build on success; on the other, neighbours who fear that that growth will diminish their quality of life.

On booming Locke Street, it can be a difficult balancing act. A common concern is parking. With his new property, Stanicak has another six to eight parking spaces, but he needs more to fulfill zoning requirements that mandate one parking space for every six seats.

He can pay the city cash in lieu of providing spaces, but this just means people will park on the street. For people who live nearby and rely on street parking, it's frustrating when parking spaces are filled.

Unfortunately, business owners don't have many options when it comes to parking: either they have spaces, or they don't. Leaving storefronts empty because there's not enough parking is not a good solution.

It's counter-productive to inhibit the success of local businesses to better service our car culture. Improved public transit would help, and moving to permit-only parking on side streets may eventually be necessary.

As Hamilton's downtown turns the corner and starts attracting people from the suburbs instead of making them flee, the issues affecting Locke Street will be the issues facing the entire downtown.

These are the kinds of issues we should welcome, because there's no noise of conversation, no bustling patios, and no lack of parking in decaying urban cores.

Stanicak has promised to work to address the concerns of residents and communicate clearly his plans for expansion. Residents ought to welcome yet another sign of increasing prosperity on Locke Street. I'm looking forward to having a beer - I mean a crepe - on a sunny little patio at the corner of Chatham and Locke.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By gord (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2006 at 19:13:59

I live across the street from the West Town and have phoned the police more than 20 times since January as have most of the people around me. Our quality of life is already bad because of the constant noise from his blasting steroe system and drunken customers flooding the streets at night. During the summer I get woken up everynight sometimes 3 or 4 times a night. Why would we want this business to have an outdoor patio when it is so loud now? Maybe your writer should go to another Kirkendale meeting and talk to the people who are directly affected by the existing West Town before you draw any conclusions as to why we don't want them to expand.

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By wemi (anonymous) | Posted June 22, 2006 at 09:32:20

I understand the complaints however Locke Street has always been a busy street with lots of movement. My question is; why move there in the first place if you are concerned about noise? My husband and I live in an area (Jackson St W) were we hear loud intoxicated people coming home late from Hess village and yet we don't seem to make a big stink about it, we close our windows and go back to bed. I don’t think you can expect to live in the city without any kind of disturbance.

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By Tyson (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2006 at 08:39:53

It's called urban progression, the West Town is what made most of the business on Locke Street possible today. Joe Stanicak has played a major role in the development of Locke street over the last 17 years. Without the thousands of FAMILIES that come to eat there, none of the store fronts on Locke would see half the traffic they see, thus most probably failing. Joe revitalized the street 17 years ago, ask anyone who has been in the area for 20 years. So next time you see Joe thank him for RAISING THE VALUE OF YOUR HOUSE GORD, if you even own one. Our city is bass akwards, Locke will never be a Hess Street, since when did one family eatery mean everything is gone to hell? And to be honest a percentage of the people upset about this issue are those who have been barred from the West Town (that'll raise some eyebrows), anti-fun league or music fearing people.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 23, 2006 at 09:55:33

I commented to the other writers at RTH that each week in the Star they list the list of new applications for a liquor license....now I don't drink, but I understand that seeing a list that long each week, many with patios, is a sign that Toronto's streets are becoming more vibrant with more dining out options and patio-life. In the Spec, you've got to read for months sometimes to come across another few applications. I end up thinking to myself, "why can't Hamilton develop the same vibrancy and fun living, even on a smaller scale?". Then stuff like this happens and I get my answer. Hamiltonians refuse to chill out and enjoy city living. We've bought into this lie that the burbs are really where it's at. And there's this constant pressure from certain residents and city hall to kill the life in the urban core and try to 'suburbanize' it. I moved downtown to get away from goofy chain restaurants, malls and absolute boredom of suburbia. Hamilton only has a small urban core left, the rest of the city that surrounds us is brutally devoid of street life and culture. I can't figure out why people are still trying to bring that type of 'vibe' to the core. Look around you and then go live near an Upper James stip mall for a few years and tell me which you prefer, and which is quieter and safer and more fun.

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By Jason J (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2006 at 12:50:53

This Jason guy is an idiot. I’m embarrassed to share the same name. As the renowned actor, Tom Hanks, did, he should buy a house in the Burbs and enjoy family life. I bet this guy has a kid, but still wants to live the bachelor life. Settle down, I say. Sign up your kid for little league, buy a station wagon, and stop leaching off Toronto culture. Or just move to a really cool city like Portland, OR.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 04, 2006 at 13:16:51

ha ha.... nice to hear from you gorilla man (I saw those pics of your new doo - problem is, all the hair is on the wrong side of your head!).

I'll bring the wife and kids out there to visit you guys sometime. peace

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By Anne (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2006 at 01:03:33

I live right behind Locke street, and have never had a problem with noise or disturbance. I would welcome an influx of commercial traffic on Locke street. There is no reason why a liquor license has to automatically equal drunken rowdiness. Do the trendy areas in, say, Beverly Hills eschew commercial development in fear of increased traffic? Not quite. Its the KIND of patrons you attract that matter. Sounds like Joe's plans will class up Locke street. I say thumbs up to Kohana, and the cute little shops on Locke. As someone else commented, those places will only survive if there are places to rest your feet and enjoy a drink and a nibblie.
If you want total peace and quiet, go live in the country. This is the urban core. Let it evolve, live up to its potential. Hamilton can be more than a lunchbox town, let it.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted January 17, 2007 at 12:36:47

Dear Gord:

Why in Gods name did you move to Locke street in the first place then?

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By Andrew (registered) | Posted March 23, 2007 at 15:42:48

Hello,

I couldn't agree more with the patrons of Locke Street that think that Joe's plan to expand his restaurant can only be a good thing, and let's not forget that he has also taken a risk in furthering his investment in this neighbourhood. Adding another restaurant, particularly with a patio, will attract more people and can only enhance the vibrance that Locke Street has already obtained. I also cannot see Locke Street ever becoming anything like "Hess Village". From what I have observed, the West Town, and other restaurants on Locke Street, tend to cater to a local crowd. Let's not discourage the economic growth of this neighbourhood!

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By Loving Locke (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2008 at 16:17:26

Hello:
I live close to Locke Street and enjoy the West Towne very much. I meet friends there for coffee, breakfast and lunch. We enjoy Locke Street and love the street!!! Such a great neighbourhood to live in. You go Joe!!!!

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By Jacks (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2008 at 16:52:48

I've just moved from downtown Toronto to the Locke Street area. I love it!!! Joe's plans to expand sound great and, if and when they are completed, will be a real boost to the neighbourhood. His West Town employs 47 people???? He is making a HUGE contribution to the neighbourhood economy and should be congratulated and encouraged - not stifled. I agree with many others who have posted - if you don't like the noise and activities on Locke Street, and you aren't in favour of progress, then move to the suburbs!

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