Rotten timing: The strike and the city’s restaurants

Rotten timing: The strike and the city’s restaurants

Pile it on: A mountain garbage continues to grow at the Christie Pits dumping site (Photo by Martin Reis)  

Restaurant owners aren’t exactly singing “Solidarity Forever” these days. With such services as garbage collection and permit processing halted during the city worker strike, restaurateurs are getting increasingly frustrated. Carmine Accogli, chef-owner of The Big Ragu, is fuming after contending with lineups at temporary garbage transfer stations. “Other than the city worker’s contentious behaviour regarding what’s right for them and disregarding the rights of everyone else, they’re not offering us much—except filth in the streets,” he says. “Summerlicious this year is going to stink.” And he means that literally.

Big players, such as the Royal York Hotel and the Oliver and Bonacini restaurants, regularly use private garbage contractors, and are thus untouched by the strike. However, it’s affecting small business operators like Greg Bolton of Pantry. “It’s a lot of extra work to do this myself, and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve already paid for it,” he says. “Or wait, are we getting a rebate on our taxes for the duration of the strike?”

Garbage collection isn’t the only issue. New restaurant permits aren’t being processed, which has delayed the opening of a few establishments. Michael Sangregorio was hoping his new Local Kitchen and Wine Bar in Parkdale would be up and running, but he filed his application the day of the walkout. “The strike is hindering small business,” he says. “Our city is already broke, we’re knee-deep in a recession, property taxes are rising, and thousands of Torontonians have lost their jobs. At a time like this, our city should be encouraging small businesses to open.”

Not all small businesses are suffering. As in any crisis, there are those who have found a silver lining. Bill Hennessey sees opportunity amid the trash. “When I heard of the strike, I asked: how can I capitalize off this? I had recently looked at acquiring a recycling business, so I had a bit of background on how disposal works,” explains Hennessey. He and his brother Bobby got to work and rapidly opened Strike Garbage, offering restaurant owners and residents same-day garbage pickup for $10 a bag (with a $50 minimum). “We legally dispose of all garbage,” he says, pointing out that “customers could choose the other option: wait hours at a transfer station where they let one customer dispose a maximum of four bags every 15 minutes.”