Coventry TransportationCoventry Transportation
The Weather Network
Jan. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
Local News
Sweets and Swirls Cafe’s owners concerned over proposed rent increase
James Cadeau and his wife Erinn Lockard have been operating the cafe for five years. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

A proposed rent increase for the NOTL Community Centre’s Sweets and Swirls Café could hurt the business, the owner says.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has included the taxes in a new lease agreement for the cafe and that has owner James Cadeau concerned.

The town didn’t include payment of the property taxes for the site in its original lease agreement and the municipality has been paying those taxes, said Holly Dowd, the town’s chief administrative officer.

At council’s committee of the whole meeting Monday night, Cadeau wanted to know how the tax value was ascertained.

“The additional tax proposed will effectively raise our rent by 50 per cent,” he said. “So I feel I must do my due diligence on this to be fair to the town and ourselves.”

Cadeau said he contacted the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) but doesn’t know when he will meet with its representative.

“Once this has been cleared up, we can discuss what is a reasonable contribution of property tax,” he added.

“We paid a reasonable amount of rent during the first five years of our lease, with reasonable increases built in,” said Cadeau.

“We believe the town council is working on an equitable solution and we are confirming the accuracy of the assessment with MPAC.”

In the previous lease contract, the property tax wasn’t included due to the town’s error, according to the staff report.

“(The owners) knew property tax was part of (the lease agreement) but maybe they didn’t know they were supposed to pay it,” Dowd said.

Cadeau and his wife Erinn Lockard have operated the Sweets and Swirls Café at community centre for five years. The first two years were difficult for them, he said.

“Erinn poured her soul and her heart into that place and it’s only within the last two years we’re starting to see benefits,” said Cadeau.

If the rent goes up, the prices at the café would also have to increase, he said.

“We’ve tried really hard to keep it reasonable,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to keep the prices down if we have to pay more and more. We want to cater to all the people of the community.”

Sheldon Randall, the town’s director of operations, said the tenant knew how much the taxes would be at the time of negotiating the café’s lease extension back in November 2018.

Coun. Gary Burroughs suggested there had to be a transitional charge of property taxes and Coun. Wendy Cheropita supported him.

“I would hate to see us force a good tenant to not be able to have a viable business if we’re increasing the lease payment so high in one year,” she said.

Coun. Allan Bisback also spoke in favour of the motion, saying, “we want to support small business and it’s a great venue to go.”

Coun. John Wiens said as someone in the food industry, he knows how difficult it can be to make ends meet.

Bisback also expressed concerns about possible precedents as there is another tenant in the community centre, Niagara Nursery School.

"If we put transitional planning for one place, we need to put it in for the others too", said Bisback.

“We have to be very careful,” agreed Coun. Stuart McCormack. “If we’re going to do a deal for one party, we should be doing for all that are similarly situated. And to not do it is giving somebody a favourable or preferential treatment.”

As the new lease agreement with the café is for five years, Coun. Norm Arsenault made a motion to have the full amount of property taxes to be phased in over the first three years of the lease.

The motion was carried and the final decision will be made by council next Monday.