Sam Freeley, owner of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, said his business was badly hit by a massive increase in real estate tax and the continued closure of roads for the 17th Avenue revitalization project, which drove the business out of the usually busy section of shops and eateries. Free poses in his 17 Ave S.W. location in Calgary on Sunday, December 30, 2018.
A restaurant owner in Calgary says he is considering a new business model after high taxes on commercial real estate and low pedestrian flow thanks to construction on 17th Avenue made it impossible to make a profit.
But when you close your doors, you can open the window for a restaurant to do something a little different, by doing away with the brick and mortar model in favor of selling food in “market establishments”.
Sam Freeley, founder of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, said that his profits suffered greatly from the closure of the roads for the 17th Avenue revitalization project, which drove the business out of the usually busy section of shops and eateries.
“We lost half of our income this year in four months,” said Freeley about the city’s construction project, which blocked all traffic in front of the buttermilk.
Add to the property tax of enterprises, soaring from 11,000 to 25,000 dollars in recent years, and Friley said that in the new year he had no choice but to close the store.
Although Frehley called the “disappointing” battle for customers to return to a specialized waffle iron during difficult economic times, closing can open the way for new business opportunities.
Freely said opening stalls at sites such as farmers' markets could solve visibility problems and pedestrian traffic.
“It was a kind of epiphany that in Calgary we are fighting for density. If you do not have such organic density in Calgary, these places can create this density for you. ”
Shops along the shopping street have repeatedly raised concerns about the reduction in business caused by construction, which blocked all four lanes on 17th Ave. S.W. one block at a time when teams move west from the MacLeod Trail to 14th Street.
Amber Ruddy, director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the city could do more to support construction-affected businesses, such as offering crews a “financial incentive” to complete the project ahead of time or “penalties” for moving the schedule.
“This is beyond dust, dirt and parking inconvenience. This leads to the fact that the business of people actually loses income and is unable to support themselves, ”said Ruddy.
Regarding the tax burden that small businesses in Calgary are experiencing, Ruddy said that the city needs to find ways to cut the budget, rather than focus on “cost containment” if it wants to support a financially balanced business.
According to Ruddy, a recent survey conducted by the federation showed that the city spends "almost twice as much as is sustainable" and needs to "find a way to control its operational budgets" or risk driving away more enterprises.
The Buttermilk closure was announced online on Friday, and Freely said that the next weekend was the busiest at the diner since it opened more than three years ago.
Frehley said he hopes to open another Buttermilk division in the future, but “hesitates to sign a lease in Calgary,” adding that he is exploring licensing and franchising options for a restaurant in other Canadian cities.
Eating can be a risky business venture, and Frehley admitted that he "threw the bones."
But he said that the city did not do any good to local businesses with a “double blow” in raising taxes and slowing down construction, calling the ongoing road works “a fatal blow to business.”
Crews have been working on a 17th Avenue revival project worth $ 44 million since January 2017.
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