'Oversaturation' of market hurts business, Elgin Street restaurateurs say
Fresco Bistro Italiano is set to close Thursday night
Several restaurant owners on Elgin Street say they believe a wake-up call is needed about the future of the area and the cost of doing business there.
The owners were reacting to news that Fresco Bistro Italiano is set to close its doors on Thursday night.
The co-owner of the popular Elgin eatery, Jim Bickford, said the decision to close is mostly because he wanted a change after more than 10 years of business. But he also said it's no secret that the cost of operating a business on Elgin is expensive.
Rent up, hydro 'through the roof'
"For us, [closing] was just about a stimulus for some change, and maybe get ourselves into a more profitable situation, in a different location, and under different circumstances," said Bickford.
"Rent's gone up considerably, utilities are through the roof. I mean Hydro Ottawa is obscene at this time, I think, personally. But ... those aren't necessarily the determining factors in our decision, they're just part of the decision."
Fresco isn't the first Elgin restaurant to close in recent months.
Maxwell's shut its doors early last year.
'Oversaturation' of the market
The owner of Woody's Pub, which sits just down the street from Fresco, said he fears more business owners on Elgin could make similar decisions as independent restaurants in the area face increasing operating costs and new competition from larger chains in other entertainment districts, such as Lansdowne Park.
Ottawa is currently experiencing an "oversaturation of the districts," and the days where Elgin was seen as an entertainment destination may be over, Keith Loiselle said.
"It's painful on the independents."
Loiselle also said some people wrongly assume businesses on busy Elgin all turn a huge profit.
"I think there needs to be a bit of a shift, you know, where the landlords realize, 'Yes these are great neighbourhoods, but there's a lot of great neighbourhoods now,'" he said.
Renewed calls for Elgin BIA
Several years ago Loiselle tried to start a business improvement area for Elgin but it never got off the ground.
There are now renewed calls to try and get a BIA up and running, including from Warren Frederick, the co-owner of Common Eatery on Elgin, which opened in July.
"I definitely think it would help out, give us a little voice to the city and stuff like that. I think it would make us stronger as independent business owners on Elgin for sure," said Frederick.
News of Fresco's closure is "a bit scary," he said, and added that the cost of rent on Elgin is a constant concern each month.