WHAT: OCAP sit-in to save the Cabbagetown Restaurant
WHERE: 443 Parliament, at Spruce
Victor Jiang says tony Cabbagetowners want his business out of the neighbourhood. And the cops seem to be listening to residents' complaints about vagrancy and drug deals allegedly going down on the premises. Now his liquor licence is in jeopardy.
Some 50 Ontario Coalition Against Poverty supporters staged a solidarity sit-in Saturday, January 20, at the restaurant, a favourite haunt of the disenfranchised. Jiang says he's tried to deal with problem patrons without much help from police. "I'm just trying to run a good business here," he says.
Police say they've met with Jiang at least three times to help him with problem customers, but they still receive complaints from neighbours about drugs and dealers.
According to Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) documents, Jiang has been cited a handful of times for liquor licence infractions. Cops have reported drunkenness on the premises, found a customer with a bag of pot and busted up a crack deal.
Staff Sergeant Frank Bergen of 51 Division says any establishment where criminal activity takes place "has to be accountable for that activity as well as be a part of the solution to it."
OCAP organizer John Clarke tells a different story. He says it's yuppie homeowners who are chasing Jiang's eatery and other businesses catering to low-income people out of the area.
Doug Fisher of the Old Cabbagetown Business Improvement Association makes no apologies for going after places residents perceive as problems, but says the issue is not one of rich versus poor. He claims that Jiang's patrons harass passersby and steal from local store owners.
Area Councillor Pam McConnell seems to be on the residents' side on this one. She points out that other Cabbagetown restaurants frequented by low-income people don't have the same problems. "If you're going to be an office for the drug dealers, we're not going to support you," she says.
The AGCO heard testimony from local residents, Toronto police and Jiang last month and is expected to rule on the matter February 7. Clarke says OCAP will fight any decision to revoke Jiang's licence.
Says Clarke, "This is about more than the Cabbagetown Restaurant. This is about whether poor communities have a right to exist."