Bishop St. merchants determined to continue fight for compensation
Published Tuesday, October 3, 2017 2:26PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 3, 2017 6:36PM EDT
A number of restaurateurs on Bishop St. are not sure whether they'll be able to stay in business much longer due to ongoing construction on that street.
For the last year, access to their restaurants has been almost cut off -- with no through traffic for pedestrians and a large work site installed on the block.
Construction on a new ventilation system for the metro began a year ago and is expected to continue until 2020.
Local merchants say business has been hurt by as much as 40 per cent due to the work site.
"We get forgotten after a while because there's no visual from the other side of the street, from anywhere," said Gaby Najjar, the owner of Kafein.
He is one of many merchants who have cut staff as income has dropped.
Legal efforts to receive compensation from the city so far have failed. Merchants recently argued in court that they should receive some compensation based on the duration of the project.
Their lawyer, Jamie Benizri, argued their property has essentially been expropriated by the city and that they are entitled to compensation.
"If the city comes and parks themselves right outside your home, right outside your business, obviously it's significantly reducing the use of the space and of your abiility to operate a business," he said.
Benizri added he is committed to pursuing the matter further because there is legal precedence for compensating restaurants and other businesses in similar circumstances.
“There is precedent going back to the late 70s which was invoked, in which somebody, on account of the delay -- which was approximately a year and a half -- was able to obtain an indemnity because of the duration of a year and a half. So the argument was very simple. We’re already up to a year. We’re scheduled to go for another two and a half years. We all know where this is going, so please step in to help these businesses survive to get to the next level,” he said.
The court, however, rejected his argument as premature.
Elio Schiavi of Ferrari said that was ridiculous.
"Yesterday we had not even 20 people at lunch time and last night, six people," said the restaurateur.
The city of Montreal said that there is hope for compensation; with the newly adopted Bill 121 in Quebec, Montreal will have the independent power to compensate those affected by street construction.
“When we have major work being done, we will be able to compensate and subsidize,” said Coderre last month when the bill was voted through unanimously in Quebec City.
That said, the city said it will not compensate merchants if they continue their battle in the courts.