Prince Arthur restaurant owners blame politicians for street's decline
Published Saturday, April 14, 2012 4:53PM EDT
MONTREAL - Restaurant owners on the once-booming Prince Arthur pedestrian strip are blaming Projet Montreal policies for a loss of business that has coincided with the party's reign on the Plateau.
The restauranteurs cite higher taxes as well as borough initiatives that have made it more difficult for people to park in the area and has seen snow go uncleared for much of the winter.
"In the late 1980s, Prince Arthur was booming, it was beautiful," said Josephine Mazurek, owner of Mazurka's. "Business was growing, restaurants were opening on Prince Arthur. Right now, it's dying."
Her Polish restaurant, a favourite on the strip since it started serving its famed pierogis in 1963, is one of many that has seen its business decline precipitously.
In fact, about half of the restaurants on Prince Arthur have shut down and business has declined radically, particularly in the winter.
"It's scary," says Mazurek.
One Projet Montreal city councillor denies that its policies are to blame for the troubles that have killed many Prince Arthur Street restaurants, which have been dying at a time when the Quebec restaurant industry has been booming.
"There's always a challenge and particularly in the restaurant sector, it's a notoriously fragile economic sector," said City Councillor Alex Norris.
"I think that the model of having a pedestrianized street that's almost exclusively focused on restaurants is a model that people are calling into question now," he said. "When you have so many restaurants in so small a space, it leaves a commercial street vulnerable to changes in tastes and economic downturns."
Some believe that a fire at Le Gourmet Grecque restaurant has still not been properly dealt with and the restaurant, which burned down two years ago, remains a smelly eyesore that's driving traffic away.
"It's really been sort of the nail in the coffin for Prince Arthur, because to come here and sit on a patio next door and enjoy a meal with this sitting here is just really a disgrace, it's a disgrace," said Julia Fraser.
One economist noted that it's likely a combination of factors driving the restaurants out.
"A lot of shops are probably having difficulty because of some policies right now," said HEC Ecnomics Proessor Germain Belzile. "It's difficult to be certain right now because of the recession. A lot of shop owners have been having difficulties because of the recession but the problem seems to be more acute on the Plateau."
Meanwhile, Mazurkas isn't promising that it can hold on forever.
"We're trying our best. How long? I don't know," said Mazurek.