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Patio approved in Guelph for 'Canada's Smallest Bar'

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An establishment labelled by its owner as “Canada’s smallest bar” was back in the spotlight Thursday night during a marathon meeting of Guelph’s Committee of Adjustment.

A proposal to put in a 20-person patio at 60 Ontario St. was met with fierce opposition and passionate support over the course of more than three hours.

The location is home to the Standing Room Only bar and Double Rainbow Café. It will also soon welcome a new tenant, Sugo Mercato, offering take-out food.

The proposed patio would serve all three businesses, but only the bar would be allowed to serve alcohol.

The building owner, Mike Watt, put a similar proposal before the Committee of Adjustment last year, however committee decided to defer their decision at the time.

Originally, the committee raised concerns regarding available washroom facilities as the bar only had one washroom available. The documents submitted along with the latest proposal include plans to build a second washroom at the bar to address the issue.

The bar also committed to stop serving alcohol on the patio after 11 p.m.

Standing Room Only appears on January 20, 2023. (Spencer Turcotte/CTV News)

Opposition to the patio

Several residents spoke against the idea, including neighbour Chris Morton.

“To be absolutely clear, I completely oppose the bar in its current form, let alone an adjustment that would allow for more capacity of the bar,” Morton told the committee during his delegation.

“I think it was also mentioned that there’s a pretty good reason why there’s not a lot of competition for the title of ‘smallest bar in Canada.’ It’s an awful revenue model. I run a marketing company, it’s been my life’s work to understand how to run a successful business and I think the main reason that we’re here is allowing for that mistake in judgement when it comes to planning for the business, or worse yet, it was always part of the plan for this scope creep of adjustment for the property,” Morton added.

Other delegates characterized the proposal as “wrong,” claiming the property owner did nothing substantial to address some of the concerns raised last year.

Other speakers echoed Morton’s sentiment regarding the bar, opining that a licenced patio was not a welcome addition to the primarily residential neighbourhood.

Support for the patio

However, not all neighbours took the same dim view of the proposal.

“I was here at the last meeting we had when there were complaints about rowdiness, and noise coming from people that didn’t even live that close [to the bar],” delegate Ron Rombough, who lives directly across from the building, said.

“In reference to the noise, my answer to that is, ‘What noise?’ I don’t hear any noise. The only noise I hear – I can stand on my front porch and I can hear the rowdiness and the noise coming from downtown,” Rombough said in support of the patio.

“This patio would be a great addition for Standing Room Only, the café, and the new occupant,” delegate Michael Balnar told the committee.

“I believe it would be great for St. Patrick’s Ward, for downtown, for the City of Guelph. It adds to the charm of the neighbourhood and the neighbourhood feel,” Balnar said.

A site plan submitted to Guelph's Committee of Adjustment by GSP Group as part of an application for a licenced patio at 60 Ontario St. in Guelph. (Courtesy: GSP Group)

Standing Room Only co-owner addresses the committee

After several delegates had spoken, one of the co-owners of Standing Room Only, Doug Todd, took a turn to address the committee members, insisting the bar has been welcomed by many members of the community.

“Standing Room Only has always respected our community and our neighbours. It’s not loud, we don’t receive visits from bylaw. Most people walk right by the bar because it’s quiet and you don’t even know its there,” Todd said.

“Having access to an outdoor licenced patio will be life-changing for me. This quiet, intimate experience would be extended to that location. This hub – the heart of the Ward – and its tenants have one goal: keep making it better.”

Watt also addressed the committee.

“There were several comments that we did not speak to the immediate neighbours or community. I’d like to say this could not be further from the truth,” Watt said.

“We canvassed a large part of the neighbourhood to learn of any concerns and to determine how much support there was for a patio. What we did discover was that there’s an overwhelming amount of support. In our petition we have over 1,400 signatures with over 270 signatures from the immediate Ward area.”

“I’m very proud of what this place has become,” Watt said. “Kim’s café is a beloved little gem and Doug’s tiny speak-easy has made a huge name for itself, earning a place on Open Table’s Top 100 Across Canada in its first year of operation. As much as I will miss Lalani Jennings, I look forward to welcoming Sugo to the neighbourhood. I know they will be a wonderful complimenting addition to the other two businesses. I can’t imagine a better combination of three micro-businesses for this location: a café, a bar, a small grocer with take-out food. The only thing that could possibly improve on the three small businesses would be a little shared patio that ties all three uses together.”

Committee’s decision

Ultimately, the proposal garnered unanimous approval from the committee.

The decision does not need to go before council.

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