Hess Village club owner fighting city in policing cost court battle
Some Hamilton club owners say the current paid duty bylaw is unfair
A Hess Village club owner is going to court in an attempt to strike down the city's paid-duty policing cost policy in the downtown Hamilton entertainment district.
A city bylaw puts the onus on Hess Village club operators to retain at least 10 special duty police officers for the area during its busiest season each year. The owners in Hess pay into a collective fund to hire the officers to the tune of around $180,000 a year — a number some say isn't sustainable.
So Dean Collett, one of the owners of Sizzle/Koi and Diavlo, has launched a court case to prove the city bylaw isn't lawful or sustainable. Collett is out of the country and did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Combined, Collett's Hess Village establishments owe almost $25,000 in back pay for city-mandated paid duty policing fees — and his businesses are just one of several that the city's licencing committee is chasing to collect tens of thousands of dollars in police fees.
If this court case is successful, the money Collett owes will be dropped and a precedent would be set that Hess club owners would no longer be responsible for paid duty costs from now on.
City tight lipped
Al Fletcher, city's acting manager of licensing and permits, confirmed that the court case had been launched but did not elaborate on the situation.
"I can't get into much more as it is now a case against the city," he said.
According to an agreement made at the city's last licensing tribunal meeting, the $25,000 Collett currently owes will be paid into a court fund and then held there until the case is resolved. If his case fails, he still has to pay the amount owing and accumulated interest.
If he doesn't pay, all of Collett's establishments would automatically have their business licenses revoked.
Coun. Terry Whitehead told CBC Hamilton that he thought the city's current policy creates "two classes" of businesses — one that is paying much higher fees because it's in a city designated entertainment district and one that isn't.
"My understanding is that Hamilton is the only place that is, in fact, double-taxing for services levels on one area. I've always had concerns on that," Whitehead said.