King Street restaurants say business is still suffering during transit pilot project
Chris Fox, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 2:03PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2019 7:58PM EST
A group of King Street restaurants have launched a new promotion to lure diners to the busy corridor amid continuing concerns about the impact the King Street pilot is having on their bottom line.
Nine restaurants along King between John and Peter streets will participate in the ‘7 after 7’ promotion, beginning tonight.
During the promotion, select drinks and appetizers will be sold for $7 after 7 p.m.
“This ‘7 after 7’ promotion will show city council that the street is and can be bustling again at and maybe get them to lift some of the driving restrictions to bring nightlife back to the area,”
Ashley Tollis, who is the general manager of the N’Awlins Jazz Bar, told CP24 on Thursday morning. “I think people don’t actually understand the rules so they just avoid the area altogether.”
The King Street pilot was put into place in November, 2017 as a way to prioritize the movement of streetcars along a busy stretch of King Street spanning from Jarvis to Bathurst streets.
Since being introduced, ridership on the King streetcar has increased by about 15,000 riders per day and travel times have improved by several minutes.
Some business, however, have said that they have struggled due to the removal of on-street parking spaces and a restriction that forces vehicles to turn right after one block.
Last winter, the Kit Kat Italian Bar & Grill erected an ice sculpture of a middle finger to protest the pilot but this year its owner has opted to take a less antagonistic approach and instead has organized the ‘7 after 7 promotion.”
As part of the promotion, all participating restaurants have placed ice sculptures emblazoned with the words ‘7 after 7’ outside their establishments.
“It has been a challenge. People are getting tickets out front and cabs aren’t even able to stop out here to pick people up. Sometimes we have to walk seniors all the way to John Street to get a cab,” Kit Kat Italian Bar & Grill owner John Carbone told CP24 on Thursday. “We want to get some vibrancy back and energy back on King Street.”
Data previously released by the Ontario Restaurant Hotel Motel Association has suggested that 17 restaurants have closed in the King Street pilot area since the launch of the project, though it is unclear how that compares to the number of restaurant closures that typically occur along the street.
Speaking with CP24 on Thursday afternoon, Ward 20 Coun. Joe Cressy said that King Street is “is working better than it ever has,” despite suggestions to the contrary.
“The King Street pilot is the most comprehensively evaluated transit project in the history of our city. We know that travel times are improved, streetcars are more reliable, that there has been no impact on cars and we measures economic impact and looked at retail transactions all along King Street. What we found is that retail transactions are on par with last year,” he said.
The pilot project will remain in effect until at least the end of July as staff continue to study whether or not to make it permanent.