Will resto-bar bylaw go to referendum?
by JULIE CADIEUX
ST. LAZARE — Council must decide whether to proceed to a register and a possible referendum on a bylaw proposing to allow bars in restaurants in the town’s commercial core following the presentation of petitions opposing the change.
Mayor Pierre Kary said yesterday town clerk Nathaly Rayneault was scheduled to brief the council working table last night on the final tally of eligible signatures from each of seven commercial zones to determine whether there was a sufficient number to force a register.
A register for each zone would require a minimum of 12 signatures, or 50 percent of residents if there are fewer than 12. Those opposed to the change said Tuesday they believe they have sufficient numbers to force the bylaw to a referendum.
According to the town website, Bylaw 868 P-2 would permit restaurants to add a bar section where alcohol can be served without food in seven commercial zones on Ste. Angélique between Montée St-Robert and Champêtre. It would restrict a restaurant’s bar section to 35 percent of the establishment’s available floor space to a 150-square metre maximum. The remaining 65 percent of the business would only be allowed to serve alcohol accompanied by a food order.
Last week, the administration resorted to posting on the town’s ‘Rumour has it…’ web page to debunk what the mayor and some councillors say are deliberate untruths the bylaw will open the way for strip clubs, night clubs and the like.
“Contrary to false information which has been circulating, the new use will not permit new bars, concert bars, strip clubs, night clubs or resto-bars in residential sectors,” the post reads.
Kary defended the decision to post the rebuttal because residents have been calling town hall with questions and concerns regarding the revision to the municipality’s master zoning bylaw which passed by a vote of 4-3 at the last town council meeting. “Apparently, misinformation was being circulated to encourage people to sign the petition,” he added.
“I heard that strip bars might be allowed to open here,” said Marie, a clerk who works at the Pharmaprix.
Kary and three of six councillors — Jean-Pierre Giguère, Nathalie Richard and Gilbert Arsenault— voted for the bylaw as a means of attracting commercial investment to the downtown core. Councillors Jean-Claude Gauthier, Brigitte Asselin and Michel Lambert voted against it because it opens the door to resto-bars in areas where they don’t think they’re appropriate.
“I’m okay with the concept of resto-bars, but what the mayor is suggesting is going too far,” Lambert said Tuesday. Once the bylaw is adopted, he added, the town has no control over what kind of establishments open up or how they are run. “A bar could meet the 65 percent requirement by putting out tables and chairs and some sandwich vending machines.
Both sides are using whatever tactics they can to sway the vote. The owner of a restaurant who supports the change said he was surprised when he read in the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette last week that Lambert voted against it. “I was under the impression he was all for it,” he said, adding that Lambert had assured him he was going to vote in favour of the bylaw about a month prior to the Sept. 6 council meeting.
Lambert said he was ready to vote for the resto-bar concept as presented by the town’s urban planning department — applying the zoning change to a small sector of the town core between Daniel and Charles-Goulet. “We really have to concentrate them in the commercial core or people aren’t going to frequent them,” he added.
“But Kary and his team wanted the bylaw to apply to a larger sector, from Mon Village all the way to Montée St-Robert — and that’s why I voted against it.”
Kary continues to insist the bylaw would apply only to Ste. Angélique between Rozon and Chevrier and intimates that Lambert says different things to different people. “It is important to be consistent in at least these two ways — we should say the same things to residents privately as we say in public and there should be one rule for all restaurants in the commercial core. Otherwise we place at a serious disadvantage those restaurants who cannot have a bar section.”
Lambert notes that Vaudreuil-Dorion took measures to move bars off St. Charles and into the new commercial sector along de la Gare. “Do we want a sports bar at the corner of Bordelais and Montée St-Robert? In the same neighbourhood as four big daycares?
Currently, St. Lazare is home to only two resto-bars, Chez Maurice and La Planète St. Lazare, both of which have an acquired right to operate. La Planète owner Raymond McLellan opposes the change, while Bar Chez Maurice owner Richard Chartrand is all for more resto-bars.
“We need to shift some of the tax burden off residents,” says Chartrand, who has headed the St. Lazare Business Association for years. He quotes a Léger Marketing study commissioned by the group that shows St. Lazare near the bottom when it comes to commercial revenues as a percentage of the total tax base.
But Chartrand sees no point in extending resto-bars out of the existing commercial core. “…not up the hill,” he added Monday. “We’ve got to centralize them in the town centre, not over a two-kilometre stretch.”
The Hudson St. Lazare Gazette – September 21st 2011 – Julie Cadieux