A landlord is forcing his tenant, a Toronto business, to shut down for about a month this summer, and the worst part is, they don’t even know when that will be.
Alimentari is an Italian shop on Roncesvalles serving hot dishes, pastries and pantry essentials such as dry pasta and wine.
Their landlord is now making major changes to their building and trying to add more floors to it. It’s been affecting the company for years and now they’re talking about it.
Alimentari’s owners say the problems first started in 2021 when the landlord began construction that began covering roof equipment that needs fresh air to function properly.
“Our AC unit’s fan motor failed in mid-August, due to the lack of fresh air circulation and the exhaust fan blowing out warm air next to it,” Alimentari owner Sarah Terpstra tells blogTO.
“Our air conditioner was down for several days, creating an extremely difficult working environment and ruining the cases of wine and chocolate products.”
Since then she says their internet line has been cut, leaving them unable to process payments for hours, the entrance and sidewalk blocked by debris falling into the area, water damage and frozen pipes bursting in January 2022, which actually caused so much damage. they had to close for over a week.
“A pipe burst in the early morning hours and pumped hundreds of gallons of water into our counter space, destroying all electronics and causing a full crack in the ceiling in the retail space,” Terpstra said.
“Crews replaced the drywall on the ceiling and we rushed to buy and reinstall the internet, scales, the POS, etc. The landlord’s response was, ‘well, the insurance company will cover it.'”
Terpstra also says the building has some heritage elements that seem to have been ignored by the construction.
“The new facade was already finished and actually had no more original brickwork, no bay window, nor a step back in the roofline in line with the buildings on either side,” says Terpstra.
“The heritage department staff member said that although the landlord acted in bad faith by ignoring these requests, unfortunately the city was unable to enforce them.”
She says they were often unaware of the work before it was done and had to make a lot of sudden adjustments, which is difficult with a staff of 10.
“We have had to make many requests to grant access to their employees to shut off our gas during operational hours when we need gas for our ovens and range to make food to sell, turn off the water we need have to wash our hands, vegetables, and dishes,” says Terpstra.
“…And install pipes, ducts, etc., sometimes doing the work right in front of our walk-in refrigerator door with the floor dug out and men blocking access to the refrigerator for hours.”
To continue the renovation, the equipment will have to be relocated, meaning the business will have to be closed for at least three weeks (probably longer) to replace the extractor hood and ductwork and also move the equipment on the roof.
Terpstra says the landlord wanted them to pay $78,000 for the equipment move, and wouldn’t give them more than 15 days notice before the work was done.
“We hired a trial attorney who, months and many thousands of dollars later, was able to push the notice period up to 30 days and guarantee us a rent-free but not insurance-free period during the shutdown,” Terpstra said.
“Our landlord was unwilling to give in much throughout the process. However, we were adamant about signing a lease renewal as we need to be able to sell our lease and liquor license to recoup the money we spent on the purchase. from the previous company’s lease and liquor license, which helps with the financial costs of moving our company to a new location.”
At this point, Alimentari basically has to wait to find out when they’ll get that 30-day notice, revealing when they’re due to close in about a month.
“We will try to still supply the neighborhood with their favorite Alimentari products, at our butcher shop Russell’s, which we opened with the intention of not having all our eggs in one basket, in case it goes south soon. with this landlord,” Terpstra says.