Town waives Rainy Lake Square fees for usage by restaurants

Ken Kellar

The town of Fort Frances is looking to help out downtown restaurants who don’t have room for a traditional patio space.

During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, a report from the Emergency Control Group was presented for council’s consideration that brought up the idea of allowing restaurants and bars in town to be exempted from paying the rental fee associated with use of the Rainy Lake Square. According to the report prepared by Town CAO Doug Brown, the move to waive the rental fee needed to be approved by Council, as town administration doesn’t have the authority to waive the fees themselves.

Brown noted that even as the restrictions around where and how restaurants can serve food are being loosened –pointing out that Phase 2 allows for establishments to serve food and drink in outdoor areas only– not every business in town is able to capitalize on that opportunity, as they might not have patio space. The waiving of fees would then allow all restaurants in town to rent the space and provide some services, as Brown notes there are some complications.

“One of the other things that’s difficult is getting special occasion permits issued,” he explained.

“The government has abandoned that, so offsite catering, for example the Boston Pizza, wouldn’t be able to use the market square to serve alcohol at, the only one that is allowed is the Flint House because they’re right across the street.”

In the outline for Phase 2 reopening from the Ontario government, the province states that those with a liquor license are only authorized to extend or add a temporary licensed patio space if they meet several criteria, including that “the physical extension of the premises is adjacent to the premises to which the licence to sell liquor applies,” hence the Flint House being the only establishment who would be able to sell liquor at the square under these conditions.

However, economic development officer Tannis Drysdale noted that the town has also made an accomodation that will allow restaurants and bars along Scott St. to temporarily extend a patio space onto the sidewalks and parking spaces along the street.

“We’re trying to do the best by everyone as we can,” Drysdale said.

“Hopefully it won’t have to be for very long.”

Mayor June Caul said that she wanted to explore the idea in order to support businesses in town as they try to navigate “terrible rough times.”

“I felt that we needed to do something for the restaurants and bars that are right downtown in Fort Frances,” she said.

“We’re trying to work through the best way to handle this so that we can continue with the flow of pedestrian traffic, vehicle traffic and making it safe and a clean environment for each of the restaurants to have a bit of a patio outside of their business, if possible.”

Council also approved the next step in the journey of the Owandem boat, approving the recommendation to move and store the boat at the Public Works yard until the town can install a permanent berth along the riverfront. The Owandem has been stored at Mark Faragher’s work yard for the past two years during and following its reconstruction, and Faragher had given notice to the Friends of the Museum that he would no longer be able to store the boat free of charge for them as he needed the space for his business. Councillor Andrew Hallikas applauded council for agreeing to store the boat until the town is able to fund a more permanent display area.

“This request has gone through both the Operations & Facilities committee and also the Community Services committee, and both committees recommend proceeding with moving the Owandem to town property and storing it safely there,” Hallikas said.

“The intent is to have the Ownadem on permanent display near the Hallet since both boats were featured on the back of the old Canadian $1 bill and are part of not only town and district history, but Canadian history… the Friends of the Museum have kept their part of the agreement that they entered into with the town, it is now up to the town to keep its side of the agreement by storing the boat safely on town property until it can be moved to a permanent berth near the Hallet once funding becomes available.”

The boats featured on the back of the Canadian $1 bills that were printed between 1974 and 1989 are not the Hallet and Owandem, but are instead the Missinaibi and Ancaster, ‘siblings’ to our local boats, with the smaller of the two, the Ancaster, being a similar model to the Owandem, according to an archival website dedicated to the complete line of Russel Brothers of Owen Sound boats.

Mayor Caul and Councillor Rick Wiedenhoeft also extended their thanks to George Armstrong Construction and CJ Contracting for their work in moving the Owandem several times over the past few years.

Two different presentations were also made to council at Monday night’s meeting. The first was made by Jamie Petrin and Peggy Loyie of the Fort Frances homelessness committee. Petrin and Loyie brought council up to speed on the group’s accomplishments and struggles since their inception in 2017 and made a request to council for their representation on the committee. Mayor June Caul said she would be discussing the item with other members of council to determine what actions they could take to be involved with the Homelessness Committee.

The other presentation of the evening was made by Paul and Sarah Noonan of La Place Rendez-Vous. The longtime owners and operators of the local hotel, both Noonans asked council to reconsider the concept that was created by HTFC Planning and Designto that suggested a new conference hotel be built on the Shevlin Woodyard. While the plans presented by HTFC are not finalized, and a conference hotel isn’t guaranteed to be built there, the Noonans provided data they had compiled from their records, the Copper River Inn and Super 8 that they said shows the town could not support another large hotel. CAO Doug Brown stressed that the town has heard some concerns raised about both the Shevlin and Gateway concepts and they want to get it right and avoid any businesses suffering because of proposed additions.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:

  • approved the 2020 BIA Budget
  • approved a report recommending that the updated resolution on Transition to Full Producer Responsibility of Blue box Recycling be passed by Council
  • received a letter dated June 12, 2020 from K. Trimble re: Resignation from Downtown BIA Board
  • approved a by-law to authorize an extension to a license agreement with the Minister of Government and Consumer Services for purposes of leasing storage space at the airport garage
  • approved a by-law to authorize the signing of a collective agreement with the Fort Frances Professional Firefighters Association
  • approved a by-law to authorize the levying and collection of a special charge of taxes upon the Business Improvement Area as provided in the Municipal Act, 2001