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Gafa 17th Avenue blames closure on tax increases, road construction



Sam Friley, owner of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, said his business was badly hit by a huge property tax increase and ongoing road closures as part of the 17th Avenue revitalization project, diverting business from the usual busy store and restaurant. Friley poses in her 17 Ave S.W. location in Calgary on Sunday, December 30, 2018.

Jim Wells / Postmedia

The owner of the Calgary restaurant claims that he is considering a new business model after high taxes on commercial real estate and low pedestrian traffic due to the construction on 17th Avenue, which made it impossible to make a profit.

But closing the door can open the window for the restaurant, to do something a little differently, by giving up the model of bricks and mortars in favor of selling meals in "market-style venues".

Friley himself, the founder of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, said that his financial result was severely affected by the closure of the road as part of the 17th Avenue revitalization project, drawing business away from the normally working part of shops and restaurants.

"This year, we lost half of our revenues for four months," said Friley about the city's construction project, which shut down all buttermilk traffic.

In recent years, the turnover of property taxes has increased from $ 11,000 to $ 25,000, and Friley said there is no other option but to close the store in the new year.

In spite of what Friley called the "frustrating" battle to make customers return to a special waffle maker in difficult economic times, the closure could pave the way for a new business opportunity.

Sam Friley, owner of buttermilk waffles in his 17 Ave S.W. location in Calgary on Sunday, December 30, 2018. The popular restaurant is closed due to rising costs and lost revenues due to construction. Jim Wells / Postmedia

Jim Wells / Postmedia

Friley said opening cabins in places such as farmers' markets can solve his visibility and pedestrian traffic problems.

"It was a kind of revelation that what we fight with in Calgary is density … If you do not have such organic density in Calgary, these places can create this density for you."

Shops at the shopping mall have repeatedly expressed concern about the shrinking of business caused by the construction, which closed all four lanes on 17. Aleja S.W. one block while the crew are moving west from Macleod Trail to 14th Street.

Amber Ruddy, director of Provincial Affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the city could do more to support companies affected by construction, such as offering crews a "financial incentive" to finish a project earlier or a "penalty" for the transition schedule.

"This is beyond the dust, dirt and inconvenience of parking, it goes to the business of people who lose their income and are unable to sustain themselves," said Ruddy.

As for the tax burden felt by small businesses in Calgary, Ruddy said that the city must find ways to reduce its budget, instead of focusing on "reducing costs" if it wants to support companies that are balancing on the financial edge.

Ruddy said the recent federal survey showed that the city spends "almost twice as much as it is sustainable" and must "come up with a way to control its operating budgets" or risk losing more companies.

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The closure of buttermilk was announced on the Internet on Friday, and Friley said that the next weekend the pub is the busiest since opening more than three years ago.

Friley said he was going to open another location for Buttermilk in the future, but he "would hesitate to sign a lease in Calgary," adding that he is investigating licensing and restaurant franchise opportunities in other Canadian cities.

Restaurants can be a risky business venture, and Friley has admitted that he "threw his ankle".

However, he said that the city did not locate local companies without a "double deception" of tax increases and slowing down construction, calling ongoing road works "a deadly blow to companies."

The crews are working on a 44-million 17th Avenue revitalization project from January 2017.

RRumbolt@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @RCRumbolt


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