A Hess Village club owner says the city is not willing to find a middle ground on its paid duty policing bylaw with hundreds of thousands of dollars lying in the balance.
"There has been no contact from the city to meet and try to find a compromise despite our clear willingness to do so," said Dean Collett, one of the owners of Sizzle/Koi and Diavolo.
Collett 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.
City says it's waiting, too
But city spokesperson Mike Kirkopoulos told CBC Hamilton that no offer from the owners' camp has been forthcoming.
"No offer of compromise has been received by the city and we are waiting on the plaintiffs' lawyer to contact us concerning both procedural and substantive issues," Kirkopoulos said.
If this court case is successful, the money Collett owes the city 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.
According to an agreement made at a city licensing tribunal meeting, the money Collett currently owes in police fees has been paid into a court fund and will be 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 licences revoked.
"There is not really any one person we can contact who speaks on the city's behalf," Collett said. "We have spoken to our Coun. Jason Farr in the past, who was very understanding with us on this issue from the beginning, and I did speak to both him and Coun. [Brian] McHattie on this issue many times before the court action was started."
"No other councillors ever asked to meet with us, or contacted us at all. Now that it is a matter before the courts we have had no communication."
Collett says the whole thing has him frustrated and stressed as large bills keep piling up.
"We sincerely hope the phone will ring soon and that we will be asked to sit down with somebody from the city's side to resolve this," he said. "Failing that, we do have confidence in the courts, and feel very strongly that our court action has real merit if that ends up being our only way to get this resolved."
Kirkopoulos says that the city believes its current bylaw is "valid and defensible."
Collett's lawyer Michael Puskas says the city will likely issue its statement of defense in a couple of weeks.