You may think of BridgeHead’s Roastery as cool coffee shop. To the City of Ottawa it’s a Small Batch Brewery (SBB). A very special one! It’s almost like there was a tick box only on their permits:
Back in 2011 BridgeHead was looking for a new location for a “coffee roasting experience”. It wanted to use the old Bell Canada garage at Anderson Street at Preston. Only problem is coffee roasting wasn’t allowed on Preston Street.
The normal way to request to roast coffee on the site would be to apply for a minor variance or a zoning amendment. In either case the public is notified. There is a hearing. Issues are reviewed. Whatever the decision, either side can appeal for a second opinion. That’s what you or I would have to do, but that didn’t happen.
City staff “interpreted” Small Batch Brewery to also mean coffee roasting. It didn’t seem to matter that “interpretation” is allowed only where the zoning doesn’t cover a need, and Ottawa had already permitted two coffee roasters in industrial zones. It didn’t seem to matter that the purpose of a SBB is as a place for the public to make beer and wine for personal use. It didn’t seem to matter that the definition and every condition for SBB stipulates beer or wine only. It didn’t seem to matter that SBB’s are supposed to be small – no more than 200 m2 and BridgeHead’s Roastery is over 1000 m2. Remember the tick box:
SBB’s are small non-industrial facilities with little fermenters that occasionally bubble CO2. If you’ve ever smelled burnt coffee you know why coffee roasting was previously only permitted in Industrial zones before staff’s”interpretation”. Roasting coffee on the scale of BridgeHead’s Roastery is an industrial process, controlled by industrial controllers and requiring “afterburners” to mitigate, but not eliminate, the smell. We’ll never know if it would have been permitted if the change had been made public because
Staff “interpreting” the SSB designation to also allow coffee roasting meant that BridgeHead could use the site to roast coffee. But there was another problem. Parking! None can be provided on site.
Here too the SSB designation is advantageous. Parking requirements for a “Small Batch Brewery” are a lot lower than for a restaurant. At the time if you couldn’t provide parking an exemption was required along with paying the city cash in lieu of parking. The value of spots depended on the use. Those for a SBB were valued at $3,230 each. Spots for a restaurant were worth $7570 each. As a restaurant (coffee shop) the BridgeHead Roastery could need twice as many, or more, of the expensive spaces.
It’s pretty uncommon to get cash in lieu for 11 spots but that was approved. It’s hard to say if relief for 20 or more spaces would have been granted and harder to knows if the difference in fees was affordable to BridgeHead. The fee for 20 restaurant spaces would have been $151,400. The fee requested for the 11 SSB spaces was just $35,530. That’s almost $116,000 less. BridgeHead is currently applying for a liquor license for 375 m2 of space (almost two SBB’s). If that were a normal coffee shop, 35 parking spaces should be provided. Apparently BridgeHead won’t have to provide any more parking for this new use because
I’ve asked Jim Watson, the Planning Committee Chair and my Councillor about the change. None knew about the change apparently. I’ve asked city staff under what authority they acted. No answer. I’ve been told the senior planning lawyer would get back to me. That hasn’t happened either.
I’ve asked if any BridgeHead’s shareholders were on the previous counsel? Not a word. I’ve asked it any members of planning staff are BridgHead shareholders. Not a word.
It seems to me like a lot of advantage has been given to BridgeHead Roastery without the usual rules applying.