Toronto businesses want compensation after G20

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Stan Jeong huddled with customers at the back of his restaurant when he learned that a mob of violent G20 protesters was headed his way, leaving a trail of destruction through Toronto's downtown core.

Smash! Someone threw a bottle at the restaurant's front window.

"We didn't close it. We're famous for (being open) 24/7," said Jeong, general manager at the Fran's location at Yonge and College streets near where the violent protest ended. "Even after that (bottle) incident we just kept open."

Workers remove broken glass at a store on Yonge Street after the weekends anti-G20 protests in Toronto, on Monday. Photo by The Canadian Press

Stan Jeong huddled with customers at the back of his restaurant when he learned that a mob of violent G20 protesters was headed his way, leaving a trail of destruction through Toronto's downtown core.

Smash! Someone threw a bottle at the restaurant's front window.

"We didn't close it. We're famous for (being open) 24/7," said Jeong, general manager at the Fran's location at Yonge and College streets near where the violent protest ended. "Even after that (bottle) incident we just kept open."

"But compared to last week's sales, we saw about a 40 per cent drop," added Jeong.

When Jeong emerged from his restaurant he saw vandalized Tim Hortons, Starbucks and Winners stores - all part of major chains that anarchists target as enemies.

But Jeong said he couldn't understand why the small splinter group of thugs who broke away from a larger, peaceful anti-G20 demonstration would want to harm his restaurant, one of just two Fran's eateries in Toronto.

Jeong said he believes the federal government should pony up at least the estimated $1,000 in repair costs to his front window, and perhaps compensate for the loss of nearly half of his usual business.

The federal government has so far refused to compensate businesses for property damage. But a coalition of local businesses and politicians is calling on Ottawa to reassess, given the dramatic damage inflicted in the heart of their city.

Toronto Mayor David Miller called on the federal government to assume financial responsibility for the mess Monday. At least 50 businesses were damaged during the rioting.

"This is a federal responsibility. It's their conference," Miller said.

On Monday there was still no official estimate of the damage.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said before the summit that the federal government was not legally bound to pay compensation for "losses suffered as a result of international meetings."

Cannon's office did not return phone calls Monday.

Ottawa has said, however, that it would consider providing compensation to those businesses "impacted by extraordinary security measures."

"If 400 or 500 police officers standing outside your front door is not an extraordinary measure, I don't know what is," said Fred Luk, owner of Fred's Not Here and the Red Tomato restaurants in the Entertainment District.

His restaurants were among the few that remained open for the weekend, part of the federal government's criteria for eligibility to receive compensation.

Luk anticipated about a 50 per cent loss in business during the summit, but now pegs the drop at close to 80 per cent.

After riotous demonstrations resulted in a complete shutdown of public transportation Saturday, Luk believes he can prove his losses resulted from those "extraordinary security measures."

But Adam Vassos, a business lawyer who is working with several of the affected businesses, says it will be difficult for many of the small businesses to claim losses because the majority were outside the security perimeter.

"They're going to have to prove not only that they had losses but also that those losses are directly related to these extra security measures," he said.

"With extraordinary security measures, the concern is what gets qualified and what doesn't get qualified in terms of the definition," he said.

The other issue with the current guidelines is that much of the damage was a result of a lack of security, inflicted by a roving band of thugs who caused their destruction while the police were nowhere to be found.

About 40 businesses on Yonge Street, including a looted independent jewelry store, were damaged in the mayhem, said Joe MacDonald, spokesman for the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area.

Outbursts of violence on Toronto's most famous street on Saturday forced the Eaton Centre into lockdown mode for much of the weekend. And many of the shop owners along the strip were too frightened to open Sunday. It could take several days for some to reopen, MacDonald said.

"One would think that it's patently unfair for these businesses, for their employees, to on the one hand suffer as a result of this (G20) meeting, and on the other hand pay a bit of their tax dollars to ensure this meeting goes forward," he said.

Organizations: Yonge and College, Tim Hortons, Starbucks Fred's Red Tomato Eaton Centre

Geographic location: Toronto, Ottawa, Entertainment District Yonge Street Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area

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