Nova Scotia

Darkside Gallery and Café case returns to court next month

The city is taking Darkside Gallery & Café to court, accusing the business of violating local land-use bylaws by selling too much food and not enough art.

Dartmouth business accused of breaching local bylaw by selling too much food, not enough art

Owner Oliver Mahon (left) serves customers at the Darkside Gallery & Café. The business has been charged with violating the land-use bylaw. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

A zoning battle that pits a Dartmouth gallery and café against Halifax city hall has hit a snag.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is taking Darkside Gallery & Café to court, accusing the business of violating local land-use bylaws by selling too much food and not enough art.

The trial was supposed to go ahead Tuesday. But instead, the lawyer for both the café owners and the landlord told the court he could no longer represent both parties as it could be a conflict as the case proceeds.

"Conflict of interest doesn't mean animus or personal dispute," café owner Oliver Mahon said outside court. "It just means that there's some ethical issues."

The matter has been adjourned until Feb. 18 to give Mahon and his wife time to find a new lawyer.

In the meantime, the city's prosecutor disputes claims by the Mahons that they might be fined as much as $47,000.

"The Crown has never said it's seeking that kind of money. Never," said Josh Judah.

Judah said if the café is convicted, the judge has the discretion to fine them below the current minimum of $100 a day. He said a trial may not be necessary.

"I've assessed the file and I think it is one that I would continue to prosecute. But there's always a chance for a negotiated solution, some sort of plea bargain or plea negotiation, for sure."

The café remains open, even though the owners admit they may leave themselves open to additional fines.

"We're open for business," Megan Hirons Mahon said. "What's our other option?"

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