'Not one person on my terrasse': Prince Arthur St. changes hurting business, owners say

Two years after it began, construction is ongoing and Prince Arthur Street business owners say they're losing out. Even the "improvements" are causing problems, they say.

Businesses say borough not listening; councillor calls them 'fonts of negativity'

Mike Michakis, owner of the restaurant Rubs, says customers want to sit under an awning, but that's not possible if his terrasse tables have to be in the middle of Prince Arthur Street. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Tensions are rising between business owners on Prince Arthur Street and the Plateau–Mont-Royal borough as a $4-million revitalization effort drags on.

The plan, which has involved two years of construction, was supposed to wrap up by June 15 but the noise, dust and disruptions continue while many terrasse chairs sit empty.

Adding to business owners' frustration is the fact that some of the improvements have brought new problems.

"People around here are smoking weed, drinking alcohol, there are bottles everywhere," said Mike Michakis, owner of Rubs restaurant, near the corner of St-Laurent Boulevard.

Prince Arthur Street seen from corner of Laval avenue during the day. The Plateau-Mont-Royal borough said construction expected to finish June 15 should now be done by the end of June. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Several long, permanent benches have been installed in the middle of the pedestrian street — some are for public use, others are meant to be part of restaurant terrasses — and Michakis said they're attracting people who wind up disturbing customers sitting nearby.

Michakis said the Plateau–Mont-Royal borough told him to call the police when that happens, but he questions that approach.

"I'm going to sit here and call them 15 times a day?"

New benches - some for public use, others for restaurant terrasses - attract heavy drinkers at night. "People around here are smoking weed, drinking alcohol, bottles everywhere," said Michael Michakis, owner of Rubs restaurant. (Shari Okeke/CBC )

Empty terrasse

Michakis also takes issue with the fact that he's now obliged to set up his terrasse in the middle of Prince Arthur Street. All the public seating in the revitalization plan is in the middle, creating two walkways for pedestrians, one on each side of the street.

That means restaurant owners can no longer use the awnings along the side of their buildings that cost them thousands of dollars to install. They say if it's too sunny, too windy or raining, people won't sit on a terrasse without an awning.  

Baby blue planters are part of the revitalization of Prince Arthur Street but many businesses say they look ugly and cheap. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

Michakis said he moved his terrasse tables back under his awning recently and that was the one day it actually filled up.

"Every other day I left it in the middle [of the street], not one person on my terrasse," he said.

Christine Gosselin, a councillor with the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, said the situation will improve once all the construction work is completed in the next two weeks.

"They're not happy because it's not finished," she said.

Most of the remaining construction is at the two ends of the pedestrian section of Prince Arthur — at the corners of St-Laurent Boulevard, near Rubs restaurant, and Laval Avenue, Gosselin said.

Baby blue planters will be added in front of Rubs that will clearly differentiate between terrasse space and public space and that will help, she said.

'I know every business on the street has lost faith in our [borough],' said Leonardo Nieto, head of Prince Arthur Street Business Association. His business, O Noir restaurant, is down 25 per cent, others are down 70 per cent and some have closed, he said.

Several of those planters have already been installed in front of other businesses on Prince Arthur Street and Michakis said he doesn't believe they'll help at all.

"It's baby blue, it looks like plywood … it doesn't even go with what they built," he said.

'No communication'

The Prince Arthur Street Business Association said the borough told them they cannot paint the planters to match their restaurants, but Gosselin said that's not out of the question.

"I don't think it's something that's going to make or break a restaurant and we will keep discussing it," she said.

After speaking with CBC Montreal, Michakis said he got a call from the borough and was told he must put his terrasse tables back in the middle of the street, so he moved them.

But he said when he's offered suggestions and expressed concerns, he gets nowhere.

Maison Métier tea house was struggling to survive in September and its former location on Prince Arthur at the corner of du Bullion Street is now available for rent. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

"What I don't want to do is get the city upset for the things that I'm going against them," Michakis said.

"My objective is to work together. It has to be a team effort."

"If there's no communication, if there's no understanding then what are we doing this for? Why are we trying to rebuild Prince Arthur?"

Several businesses frustrated

"I know every business on the street has lost faith on our [borough]" said Leonardo Nieto, president of the Prince Arthur Street Business Association.

He's co-owner of O Noir restaurant and said his business is down 25 per cent since construction began two years ago, and others are suffering much more.

"I've seen guys that have lost 70 per cent [of their business]" Nieto said.

Others, such as Maison Métivier tea house, which was on the corner of du Bullion Street, have disappeared.

Nieto says that business could not survive after access to its entrance was blocked by ongoing construction mess and surprises.

"They cut his power, they cut his water, they just did this without any prior warning," Nieto said. 

"There is no dialogue" with the borough about business owners' concerns, he said.

Gosselin insists they just need to be more patient.

Casa Grecque's terrasse was full Monday evening when it was under the restaurant's awning, but far less busy in its new position in the middle of Prince Arthur Street Tuesday evening. (Shari Okeke/CBC)

'Endless font of negativity'

"Give it a chance, get on board," she said.

"The merchants on Prince Arthur are an endless font of negativity," she said.

Gosselin said when the construction is over, Prince Arthur street will be beautiful and more vibrant.

"If nobody's going into your restaurant, it might be that nobody wants to go into your restaurant," she said.

About the Author

Shari Okeke is writer/broadcaster for Daybreak on CBC Radio, and creator of Mic Drop, an award-winning CBC original podcast.


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