Nfld. & Labrador

Lengthy search for new location raises flags for downtown St. John's bar

Toslow owner Chris Scott says there are spaces available in the downtown, but something always seems to fall through when dealing with the landlord.

Chris Scott has been looking for a new home for Toslow for over a year

Chris Scott is one of the owners of Toslow in downtown St. John's. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Chris Scott, one of the owners of Toslow in downtown St. John's, has been on the look out for a new location for his bar and café.

But now, a year after the search began, a new home has yet to be found, and Scott says he's not sure why finding space in the downtown has been so difficult.

"We're a little fed up with some of the issues within the [current] building and dealing with this current landlord we have," Scott told The St. John's Morning Show. 

"We wanted to make it a little bit more public after, most recently, another building kind of fell through, but in terms of why downtown's like this, I'm left with a lot of questions."

These [buildings] are empty … and I can't forsee them ever having anything in them.- Chris Scott

Scott said he has lost count of how many buildings he's visited over the past year, estimating the number is in the dozens.

He said the spaces are there, but something always seems to fall through when dealing with the landlords.

"The best example I could give is calling a place — probably ended up calling three or four times just to try to go into see it — and then having to be a little more forward," Scott said.

"These [buildings] are empty, and they were empty when I lived here years ago and they're still empty right now, and I can't foresee them ever having anything in them."

Toslow is looking to move away from it's location on Duckworth Street. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

The number of empty buildings in the downtown area have increased over the years, as restaurants and other businesses pack their bags to move into other areas of St. John's.

Scott said there are ways to stimulate the downtown and help more businesses like Toslow utilize the empty space. For example, the City of Vancouver has implemented a vacancy tax on empty buildings.

"I don't know everything about it, but I for the most part, it seems that a lot of downtown is just very stagnant. There's been a lot of cities that have done vacancy taxes, and that helps move that along," Scott said. 

"Whether the landlord then ends up selling the building cause he's sitting on it, at the end of the day, a lot of these buildings are being used as a bank account for people. And I think there's something to be said there whether they're local or not."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show