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Chilly Willy's - My Perspective

Sunday, August 31, 2014   by: Mac Headrick

You never know in local politics what issue is going to resonate with the public. Example A - the proposed relocation of the Churchill Plaza branch of the Public Library to replace Chilly Willy’s Bar and Grill. In today’s column I intend to outline some of the questions this proposed decision inspired in my mind. 

There has been a significant outpouring of public support for Chilly Willy’s remaining where it is. I am not ready to jump on the band wagon just yet. I agree with many of the arguments put forth by supporters of the restaurant. That aside, there are a few questions I am interested in having answered before I make a final determination. I have listed them below: 

  1. So far all I have read are comments from local politicians opposed to the August 11/2014 decision to move the library branch. What councillors were for this move? What was their rationale?
  2. Apparently 6,200 people are supporting Chilly Willy’s on Facebook and 1,600 have signed a petition. Good! That indicates a motivated public. I’m curious where these people go when they eat out. If just a small percentage (10%) visited Chilly Willy’s once a week I imagine the revenue situation would be significantly better.
  3. The following comment is not based on any specific personal knowledge on my part. The rent of $92,000 dollars a year for the Churchill Plaza space seems to be on the high side to me. Is the current rent etc. paid by Chilly Willy’s the normal rate? My point is that I am curious as to what the standard costs are for the use of these facilities and who determines these.
  4. The present lease for Chilly Willy’s expires this October/ 2014. What rent does this business need to survive? I like the idea of having a restaurant in the John Rhodes Arena complex. Does it make economic sense? I’m assuming the statement of declining revenues is accurate.
  5. What are the prospects of the future use for this facility? Presently there are no major hockey teams scheduled for the John Rhodes arena. Can this restaurant prosper as a stand alone facility?
  6. As you may know, I retired from the Algoma District School Board. I always supported the community use of school facilities. I cannot help but chuckle when I hear any politician suggesting the use of closed schools. When a closed school is brought back on line it has to be brought up to existing codes. Many times it is far cheaper to tear down the school (especially if it is an old building) and build a new facility. Has this option been pursued?
  7. Councilor Terry Sheehan stated there could be provincial funding available for a new library building. Perhaps our local provincial member could respond to this idea. Is this suggestion possible?
  8. Are there other options than the one picked at the August 11/2014 meeting? 

I am very aware of the importance of City Council supporting and working with local businesses. Of course any relationship has to make economic sense. 

As I see it the Chilly Willy issue has resonated with the public. You cannot buy any better publicity. I look forward to the continuing debate.

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