LEVY: King St. pilot forces sushi restaurant to close

After four years near the corner of King and John Sts.. restaurateur Robert Garabedian has thrown in the towel.

Like the Pearl, Subway and Le Saint Tropez restaurants before him, Garabedian shut the doors of his Maki My Way restaurant this past week — a victim, he says, of the King St. pilot and the decision of the Kathleen Wynne government to increase the minimum wage.

He said he made up his mind two months ago when their lease came up for renewal and he had to decide to whether to sign for another five years — not knowing whether the King St. pilot will be made permanent (when a year is up this month) and before Premier Doug Ford cancelled a further minimum wage hike from $14 to 15/hr.

He found himself working 80 hours a week for minimal return while never home for his two daughters, 3 and 8.

“The street itself is losing its charm … restaurants are closing, the traffic is not as much as it used to be,” he said during a recent visit to his restaurant before it closed its doors.

“It’s an emotional time … I wanted to build something for my girls,” he said, noting now that he’s lived his dream to open a sushi place, he’s looking for another sales job like the one he had at Bell for 20 years.

The King St. pilot — launched in November of 2017 — removed all parking in the study area from Bathurst to Jarvis Sts. and only allows cars to proceed one block before being forced to turn right, or face a possible $145 fine.

The latest results from July and August — coincidentally released the Friday after last month’s municipal election — have been presented in much the same way as the results all along, spun to look better than they are.

( function() { pnLoadVideo( “videos”, “pXQt7dhJyt8”, “pn_video_542056”, “”, “”, {“is_mobile”:””} ); } )();

As in months gone by, in August streetcars heading east only showed a 1.2-minute decrease during the morning rush hour. Those heading westbound were .7 minutes faster.

During the afternoon peak in August, streetcars heading east were 2.7-minutes faster; 3.2-minutes faster in a westbound direction.

If the city’s social engineers wanted to accomplish one thing, they have ensured that car traffic has all but died along King St.

For example, the car volumes at Bathurst St. during the morning rush have dwindled from 1,450 last November to 120 in August heading eastbound. During the afternoon rush the number of cars heading westbound at Bathurst have decreased from 1,690 last November to 460 in August.

Garabedian said although business was down 10% this past summer, it wasn’t as bad as last winter and likely this winter, because people want to park close to where they eat — something no longer available on King St. since the pilot commenced.

The much-promised buskers, street art and Muskoka chairs didn’t “help at all,” he said.

The only thing that worked was the two-week “Food is King” promotion this past February, which brought lots of people for the city-sponsored food. But they didn’t come back, once the promotion, was done, he said.

Robert Garabedian, owner of Maki My Way outside his restaurant on King St during the King St. TTC pilot project that is driving business away in Toronto. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)

Instead of socially engineering the entire pilot area — from Jarvis to Bathurst — as City Hall did, he says there was a much simpler solution to make the streetcars run faster. Banning left turns off of King “would have solved every problem,” he says.

“I’ve asked politicians … no one has ever given me an answer as to why that wouldn’t have solved the problem,” he said. “Instead they went overboard … and (they put the pilot in place) 24 hours a day.”

He said the whole street of restaurateurs are pro-transit — no one is saying get rid of streetcars — but “reasonable solutions” need to be employed such as opening up the entire street after 7 p.m. and on weekends, when the streetcars are “half empty.”

Whether to extend the pilot will be one of the first decisions of the new council.  Garabedian suggests the new councillors come down to King St. and see for themselves what has happened.

“Please be flexible and try to make a solution that is workable for everyone,” he pleads.

“I can’t see anyone wanting this after 7 p.m. or on weekends.

“The government at the local level they take small business for granted,” Garabedian adds with a sigh.

“They don’t understand the impact of their decisions to make things bike-friendly and streetcar-friendly.”

[email protected]

( function() { pnLoadVideo( “videos”, “SpdRbe0-OKY”, “pn_video_478177”, “”, “”, {“is_mobile”:””} ); } )();

.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies