December 2018 / Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

Not so Happyland

Homeless-full

by John Smee

The Happyland Pub at 3218 Eglinton Ave. E. is a story about frustration. The Bluffs Monitor first heard about problems in the small plaza just East of Markham Rd. in July 2018.  We talked tothe neighbours of the pub one evening and heard complaints about alleged patrons of the bar drinking, swearing and fighting in the parking lot.  There was talk of drug use in stairwells as well as business owners needing to step over people passed out in those same stairwells when coming into work in the morning. There was talk of aggressive panhandling by supposed patrons of Happyland. With people congregating outside the premises, it has created an atmosphere of dread and loathing for those who run businesses and for those that want to patronize the businesses

There was also talk of inactivity by local Councillor Gary Crawford and the Alcoholand Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). So we checked.  

Your local councillor is not the place to take complaints about a business.  That’s dealt with by Municipal Licensing & Standards (MLS). The councillors office confirmed that they had received a complaint about the pub and had pointed the business owners in the plaza towards Municipal Licensing & Standards.  Councillor Crawford’s staff confirmed their last email from the owners was a “thank you” and they assumed the matter had been dealt with in a manner satisfactory to the neighbours of the Happyland Pub.    

A check of complaints made about the pub with MLS showed that there have been no complaints made against the address (3218 Eglinton Ave. E.)

So it was on to AGCO.  An email from Ray Kahnert  Senior Advisor, Communications revealed that: 

“ The AGCO received one (our italics) complaint (in August 2017) concerning the licensed establishment at this address. Two AGCO Inspectors visited the location and did not find any instances as described in the complaint. Further the bartender confirmed they only sell alcohol for consumption on premise. The Inspectors reminded the staff person of abiding by the rules and regulations of the LLA. One of the Inspectors followed up with the complainant and provided the details of the inspection.”

There is a very good chance, of course, that the inspectors were not there on a hot Saturday night in July when the parking lot is especially lively. 

An email to Toronto Police Services brought this response from Crime Prevention Officer, Constable Julie Campbell, 43 Division:“I completely understand their (business owners/ neighbours) frustrations.  Believe me when I say Happyland is mentioned in some way or another at every single Crime Management meeting due to a criminal offence occurring there, a liquor licence check or proactive patrol.  Officers in both uniforms and plainclothes are there as much as possible… Perhaps 311 could also be helpful in reporting garbage, urinating, loitering, and noise.   Municipal licence officers handle any investigations as it relates to all those things, we (TPS) are more for criminal incidents.”

So the officials did what they were supposed to do. The frustrating part for the neighbours was the officials didn’t solve their problem. It was up to them.

To their credit what the neighbours and business owners have done is offered to buy the building that the pub occupies. With the caveat that the current lessee and owner of the pub not be the tennant.  The owner of the building has offered to sell it to them. With the caveat the purchasers deal with the owner of the pub.  The lease on the space is up December 31st 2018.  Simply not renewing the lease could lead to bigger problems for the owner of the building.

It takes a while to register when you first enter the pub.  Something is amiss. You take a long walk across the room to the bar before it strikes you. There is virtually no place to sit down. It feels like you’re in someone’s basement. There are a couple of tables and chairs near the windows and a decaying old couch at the opposite end of the room near the bar.  Other than that, nothing. So if it is the bar patrons outside there may be a logical reason for it.  

One thing is certain, men and women start to gather outside the bar mid afternoon and can be there until the wee hours of the morning. And outside that bar is a place you don’t want to be. There is a genuine feeling of desperation and fear that permeates the plaza parking lot. Those that do venture in to go to the other businesses, move quickly and keep their eyes down. The Little Bavaria Resturant, right next door to the Happyland Pub, has to close down early in the summer when there are generally more  people in the parking lot.   

The Happyland Pub has been around for more than 10 years.  And for the most, part has been a good neighbour. The current problems started, according to the other occupants of the plaza, a little over 2 years ago. That’s when the business was purchased by a new owner. That owner did not respond to an interview request for this story. 

The colder months will bring some relief for the neighbours as fewer people want to be outside.  But the warmer weather is just 6 months away and still no solution in sight.

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