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17th Avenue waffle house blames the closing of tax increases, road construction

Sam Friley, owner of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, said his business was hit by a rise in property taxes and ongoing road closures for the 17th Avenue revitalization project, driving businesses away from normally busy shops and eateries. Friley poses on 17 Ave S.W. location in Calgary on Sunday, December 30, 2018.

Jim Wells / Postmedia

The Calgary restaurant owner said that he was considering a new business model after high commercial property taxes and low traffic thanks to the construction on 17th Avenue making it impossible to make a profit.

But closing the door might open a window for restaurants to do things that are a little different, by removing brick and mortar models to sell food in "market-style places."

Sam Friley, founder of Buttermilk Fine Waffles, said the outline was hit by the road closure for the 17th Avenue revitalization project, driving away businesses from normally busy shops and eateries.

"We lost half of our revenue that year for four months," said Friley about a city construction project that covered all traffic in front of Buttermilk.

Adding business property taxes skyrocketed from $ 11,000 to $ 25,000 in recent years and Friley said he had no choice but to close the store in the new year.

Apart from what Friley calls a "frustrating" battle to get customers back to special waffles in difficult economic times, the closure can pave the way for new business opportunities.

Sam Friley, owner of Buttermilk waffle poses on 17th Ave S.W. location in Calgary on Sunday, December 30, 2018. Popular restaurants are closed due to a number of increases in costs and loss of income due to construction. Jim Wells / Postmedia

Jim Wells / Postmedia

Friley said opening outlets in places such as farmers' markets could solve problems of visibility and pedestrian traffic.

"It's kind of an epiphany that the thing we struggle with in Calgary is density. . . If you don't have organic density in Calgary, these places can create that density for you. "

Shops along the retail line have repeatedly raised concerns about the reduced business caused by construction, which has closed all four traffic lanes on 17th Avenue S.W. one block at a time when the crew moved west from Macleod Trail to 14th Street.

Amber Ruddy, provincial affairs director with the Canadian Independent Business Federation, said the city could do more to support businesses affected by construction, such as offering a "financial incentive" crew to complete projects earlier or "punishments" to go on the arrangement.

"It's outside of dust and dirt and the inconvenience of parking is being moved. This goes into the business of people who truly lose their income and are unable to defend themselves, "Ruddy said.

Regarding the tax burden felt by small Calgary businesses, Ruddy said cities need to find ways to reduce budgets rather than focus on "cost control" if they want to support businesses that are teetering on the edge of finance.

Ruddy said a recent study by the federation showed cities spent "almost double what is sustainable" and needed to "find ways to control their operating budgets" or risk expelling more businesses.


The Buttermilk closure was announced online on Friday and Friley said the following weekend was the busiest restaurant since it opened more than three years ago.

Friley said he hoped to open another Buttermilk location in the future but would "hesitate to sign a contract in Calgary," adding he was exploring licensing and franchise options for restaurants in other Canadian cities.

Restaurants can be a risky business venture and Friley admits that he "throws dice."

But he said the city did not do local business with a "double increase" in tax increases and a slowdown in construction, calling ongoing road work "a deadly blow to business."

Crews has worked on the $ 44 million 17th Avenue revitalization project since January 2017.

In twitter: @RCRumbolt

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