Nova Scotia

Restaurant wants $500K from government, Nova Centre developers over lost business

The Wooden Monkey restaurant in downtown Halifax is taking its effort to get compensation for construction-related losses to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The Wooden Monkey says it's incurred hundreds of thousands in losses since construction started in 2012

The Nova Centre was originally expected to be open in January 2016, but is now expected to be ready this December. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Owners of the Wooden Monkey restaurant in downtown Halifax are hoping to go to the province's Utility and Review Board (UARB) in an attempt to recoup more than $500,000 in losses they say they've sustained due to construction of the neighbouring convention centre.

In papers filed Monday by the company's lawyer, Ray Wagner, the restaurant's owners say the city, province, developer and everyone else involved in the project have been unwilling to discuss compensation.

The company is claiming losses of $508,017 based on a forensic accounting report it had prepared.

'Substantial and unreasonable interference'

"There has been substantial and unreasonable interference with the claimant's business interest, for which the respondents are obligated to provide compensation," the company said in its statement of claim filed Monday with the UARB.

Besides the losses claimed, the Wooden Monkey is also seeking legal costs and other fees and payment deemed appropriate by the board.

Fastest approach

The company is going to the UARB because it seems to be the most timely approach, Wagner said in an interview.

"If we go through the traditional civil courts, we could be three to five years before we resolve these matters one way or the other," he said.

Wagner also represents six other downtown businesses who have threatened a class-action lawsuit over the matter. He said the attempt to go to the UARB is a test case and the outcome would impact what happens next with the other businesses.

Repeated construction delays

Respondents named in the statement of claim include the city, attorneys general for Nova Scotia and Canada, the Halifax Convention Centre Corporation, project developer Argyle Developments Inc. and parent company Rank Incorporated.

The city has previously maintained the Expropriation Act doesn't apply in this case, something a spokesperson repeated in an email Monday.

"We will be defending the claim in the normal course," Tiffany Chase said in an email.

Wagner said governments are liable because they set the parameters under which the project could go ahead.

Expected opening in December

Construction work began in 2012 on the project.

The filing notes the Nova Centre, which is to include the new convention centre, a hotel and two office towers, was originally scheduled to open in January 2016. There have been three subsequent delays and the current expected opening is this December.

Construction "has had a significant, sustained, unreasonable impact" on the restaurant's business, according to the statement.

The Wooden Monkey's statement of claim mentions construction-related dirt and noise and dust have interfered with the restaurant's business. (Yvonne Colbert/CBC)

That includes repeated interference with electricity, water, internet, garbage and phone service, a "severe reduction" in available parking, blocked and/or obstructed pedestrian access, construction-related dirt, noise and dust, and interference with the seasonal patio.

All of it, the statement says, has contributed to ongoing losses and yet none of the respondents were prepared to discuss some form of compensation under the Expropriation Act.

"These businesses are not looking for all the things they have lost, but rather, to be fairly compensated so they can live to [see] a better day," said Wagner.

Question of jurisdiction

Wagner said everyone should expect to experience some inconvenience due to construction and the city's development, but this project has stretched "into a realm where there's really been very little planning and proactive activity to mitigate the substantial losses being experienced."

It's Wagner's hope a hearing could happen before the end of the summer. However, there's a question related to jurisdiction that must be settled first.

Wagner said that question could impact what happens next.