Café on the Square

April 4, 2016

Back burner business. The Government Management Committee moved closer to finding a new tenant for the restaurant space inside City Hall this week. City staff are pushing ahead with recommendations for a new kind of restaurant in City Hall — a kind of marketplace with a variety of offerings (i.e. a food court, more or less). Councillors would also like to see a social enterprise move in, to give training and employment opportunities. The issue has been under consideration at the Government Management Committee since 2011, when an RFP failed to produce a successful contract. The narrative around the problems with the Café on the Square, which currently occupies the space, has been financial: a $400,000 debt which CBC’s Jamie Strashin reported in 2014, and $88,000 in annual “common area and maintenance” costs reported by The Star’s Jennifer Pagliaro in early 2015. But politicians also point to city staff for the problems: soon after Rob Ford was elected Mayor, council decided to stop providing snacks and drinks at meetings, reported the Globe’s Ann Hui; former councillor Doug Ford criticized the city for its lack of flexibility in its business model when it comes to negotiations, according to the National Post’s Natalie Alcoba; and this past September, Ford balked at a plan to spend $100,000 on consultants, reported the Toronto Sun’s Don Peat. Monday’s meeting was the first time the issue had been discussed since Rob Ford’s death, and it had a relatively tame tone compared to the last time it came up. The committee passed the staff recommendations to implement a set of detailed business pre-qualification criteria for applicants, which would include their marketing plan, but not the actual food that will be offered.