Eateries eye harbour front

Dave Bartlett
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This architectural drawing shows what a proposed building, housing two restaurants, will look like.

The owners of the Keg Restaurant want to beef up their presence on the St. John’s harbour front by building two additional restaurants just to the east of the Keg.

The Harbour Walk Hospitality Group Inc. has submitted a plan to the city to build one two-storey building, which would house both restaurants — with a common entrance on Harbour Drive — at a cost of $10 million.

Two of the partners, Leo Power and Wayne Moore, attended a city planning committee meeting on Wednesday to pitch the project to members of council.

“We think what we are proposing is a good project for downtown,” Power said at the meeting.

Originally the plan was to build a 30,000-square-foot building on the site, but Power said the group received some negative feedback, so they reduced the size of their proposal to a 16,000-square-foot building, about twice the size of the Keg.

He told the committee that between him and his two partners, they have 75 years’ experience in the food and beverage industry, and beyond the Keg, own the Fog City restaurants and a number of other businesses in town.

The developers have applied for franchises to go into the proposed building, but said they couldn’t reveal which restaurants, as they have yet to secure the franchise rights.

Power said it was possible that one of the new restaurants could be an independent. The development would also add 19 parking spaces, which is in accordance with the city’s downtown parking study, and the city’s engineering department had no issues with servicing the new building.

The developers have already secured a long-term lease from the St. John’s Port Authority, which owns the land, and the proposal meets the authorities master plan.

The restaurants would not be built in a designated heritage area and don’t block public views of the harbour.

But Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff had some concerns about how the project may affect the view from the hotel in the Murray Premises.

She did say the proposed development was better than putting a warehouse back on the site — Ozark Electric and D.F. Barnes Ltd. used to have a warehouse there.

The city’s director of planning, Cliff Johnston, said this development would be the last for the west end of the harbour front as everything east sits over water and is therefore undevelopable.

The new restaurant would generate at least $100,000 a year in tax revenue for the city and create about 250 full- and part-time jobs once it’s built.

It’s estimated the construction would also create “100 man years” of employment.

Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen was quick to make a motion to accept the proposal and that was seconded by Coun. Tom Hann.

But Duff asked for a public meeting on the development. Couns. Debbie Hanlon and Sheilagh O’Leary were also in favour of a public meeting, but that idea was voted down.

The development will instead be advertised to gather public opinion on the planned development.

Once that has been done, the proposal will still have to go to a full meeting of St. John’s city council for final approval.

If the city approves the development, Power said construction is planned to begin this summer, and should be completed in 18 to 24 months.

Organizations: Keg.The Harbour Walk Hospitality Group, Port Authority, Ozark Electric and D.F. Barnes

Geographic location: Fog

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Recent comments

  • sailor
    February 06, 2011 - 16:04

    I would like to see Harbour Drive closed to traffic and the area be fully developed. I have been in many downtown cities and have never seen cars drive the waterfront. It should be developed with resturants and shops with boardwalks for residents and tourists to enjoy.

  • Steve
    January 31, 2011 - 18:30

    What, Shannie Duff talking about harbour views AGAIN? Get over yourself. Progress is obviously something not wanted in this hellhole.

    • realsteve
      January 31, 2011 - 21:01

      If you don't like this hellhole, Steve, why don't you get the hell out?

  • Nearby
    January 28, 2011 - 23:08

    Right now, to enjoy that quarter of the St. John's waterfront, means walking through a pile of smelly ( yet culturally attractive!) fishing boats and a lone couple of buildings. Folks frome here and afar enjoy the downtown, why not add some addtional architechure to the sights and sounds - as one person here notes the atmosphere of the Halifax waterfront?! Much needed...and more! in my humbe opinion....

  • Chris Shortall
    January 28, 2011 - 09:22

    Well said! I completely agree and while I don't have the factoids to back up my argument, I remember visiting Kingston, ONT and being awed at the MACS there, it was just like all the other horrible convenience stores in the rest of ontario, but they tempered the facade and signage in the downtown core so that it was in keeping with the aesthetic of the historic district. I still shopped there because it was the ONLY convenience store, but it felt like a better fit with the district and surroundings. As for the comment by L Barrett, regardless of who owns and runs the store, sales always slump in Feb and March in Canada, NL isn't a unique outlier. Any restaurant or business should know how to adjust inventory to the slower sales. A franchise isn't protected from slower winter sales. Also for yourself and other tourists, there are menus posted outside most establishments to save the person the time and money of weeding out the high priced unknowns. And as for what John Smith said, a franchise is a franchise, Newfoundland doesn't do it any worse than other places, unless you have an issue with the staff, which it out of the purview of control of the franchise. The food is generic, and the same everywhere... that is what a chain restaurant thrives on. I have no idea what rent and property taxes will be in the new building, but it doesn't seem to efffect the numerous other businesses and restaurants that consistently operate in our downtown core. And I'm sorry L Barrett and John Smith that you think that franchises are a comfortable thing. I feel for you. I have never had as good a eating experience as I have had at a locally owned, locally operated, restaurant or cafe that supports local suppliers, local growers, and other independent business in the area. It's not just want you are consuming, but much more.

  • tmburke
    January 28, 2011 - 08:57

    I was recently in Halifax and visited the Farmer's Market on the refurbished building located on the Waterfront. It was amazing, filled with local food producersm, wine makers, artisans and crafts people. It agev me a great sense of what Haifax is all about and I loaded up on presents to bring back to people, wulaity items I couldn't get anywhere else. The building is a green building that is sustainable and attractive. Obviously this took a lot of vision and planning, something we seem to lack in our current city planning. We need to be more thoughtful about what we are building and where, and another ugly franchise, that feeds fatteing, tasteless foood, is not what St. John's waterfront needs.

  • John Smith
    January 28, 2011 - 07:57

    I disagree with what some others have been posting. I think what the city needs is more chain restaurants, but done right. For years I hoped that the Keg would come to St. John's, but when it got here I was, and I still am dissappointed. The quality of the food is not nearly as good as it is in other cities, like Toronto, or Montreal. Like so many other chains, once they get here they become what I like to call...Newfoundlandized, in other words they turn to crap. Such a pity. I love going to the Keg, or IHOP, or The outback resaurants on the mainland, food and service is always good. Here we get cheap, crappy chains like the one in the Village, or the one in the old Canadian tire bldg. with the moose everywhere. I would like to see some good chains come here, but they would be sub-standard, like everything else. PS, the best steak in town is at the Cellar.

  • Jim
    January 27, 2011 - 19:59

    TYPICAL - same owners will own the waterfront. I agree with other posters here that more franchises is bad for our local culture. I miss the Mom and Pop shops that are disappearing. We will soon be exactly like the mainland.

  • Hughie
    January 27, 2011 - 18:32

    Dont knock it yet.Note the three blind mice wanted Public Meeting,Then Peg

  • Albert Jones
    January 27, 2011 - 13:08

    Chris Shortall makes a good point regarding franchises. They are invariably loud cookie-cutter outlets that lack any local personality or character. For some time now progressive North American cities have been inocculating themselves against the spread of Wal-Mart-itis (the malignant urban tumour that kills anything unique or local in its wake). In the same manner, and for the same reasons, municipalities should be blocking the franchise food frenzy. Already for example, some cities have reserved historic downtown areas for unique local cusine. Alternatively they have refused approval for the giant gawdy signage that franchisors insist on - you know, the big M that can be seen 10 miles away. There is also a strong economic incentive for government to restrict franchises. Theoretically they are locally owned but in reality a large chunk of what would otherwise constitute taxable profits are transferred tax-free to the home office (in Chicago for example). Royalties, marketing fees and the like, which are the source of profit to the franchisor, are all tax deductible. Moreover franchises rarely buy local. Left to present trends, there will ultimately be no difference between St. John's and Toronto when it comes to retail shopping and food services.

    • L Barrett
      January 27, 2011 - 14:12

      I'm not sure that a restaurant specializing in unique local cuisine would be able to survive the cost of retail space on the waterfront. Tourism is very slow in NL in the winter months. When I am travelling I've found the best local foods are usually well known and no matter where they are located, tourists will find them. Say what you like about franchises, but familiarity sells. Whether you're on vacation or a business trip going to a restaurant you know saves a lot of time and money trying to weed out the high priced unknowns.

  • Mr. Juannabee
    January 27, 2011 - 12:09

    I have to laugh at the architecht's drawing with the uniform, full, lush trees surrounding the building. No trees really grow like that in the St. John's wind. Why not draw them like the tilted, scraggly twigs they will be after one fall & winter?

  • Robert
    January 27, 2011 - 11:24

    Yay, we're going to bring in another franchise that will offer pre-packaged food prepared in a factory in Ontario and heated locally. Our tourists will be amazed. Why people flock to eat that crap is beyond me.

  • William MUrphy
    January 27, 2011 - 11:18

    I will always miss The Starboard Quarter. It had the best Irish Coffee made right at tableside.

  • Chris Shortall
    January 27, 2011 - 10:34

    Well said Albert Jones. My point of contention is about it possibly being a franchise. There are amazing chefs in this city who need a good kitchen to work out of and having a FRANCHISE is so totally constraining for any good cook... it's a terrible spur to creativity and ingenious food. It deteriourates the options for local cusine, and often times the franchisee is bound by a legal contract to order from the national suppliers, doing yet another disservice to independent business and undercutting anything local. I'm not against the creation of 2 new restaurants, hell we need the ability to revamp kichen space in this town, but I just refuse to support a franchise. I think restaurants are a good use of the land, and having more of them is a great way to allow for some redevelopment of space in the downtown core, but it saddens me everytime a new franchise is proposed.

  • brad
    January 27, 2011 - 10:33

    If they. can make it look like a dirty rundown 100year old piece of crap they may allow it

  • John
    January 27, 2011 - 09:59

    With the city going after the cruise industry and the number of high paid people in the gas and oil in the city, this seems to be an excellent development. Hopefully, they will put in a low / medium priced restaurant or keep the Keg and not make this only a high end restaurant.

  • trevor
    January 27, 2011 - 09:59

    awesome! as long as they provide some type of parking garage.

  • Jeremiah
    January 27, 2011 - 08:15

    While The Keg is ok as a quasi fast food restaurant, it should not be allowed to molopize the waterfront. Why not encourage more variety and some local flavour eatery?

  • Albert Jones
    January 27, 2011 - 08:13

    What ever happened to the principle that the development of publicly owned lands should be based on a competitive bidding process. Did I miss the public notice from the Port Authority inviting proposals for development of the lands in question?