Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.

Upgraded waterslides part of $5M East Park investment

East Park London announced a $5-million investment in upgrades this week, including the addition of new waterslides ― part of what management said is the biggest investment in its history. General manager Alon Shatil told Global News that the investment is aimed as “adding to the capacity of our waterpark,” and promised that guests would benefit from “shorter lineups and more capacity.” The upgrades will see the large mat slide tower replaced with a five-slide tower that includes three mat slides and two new waterslides (including one dubbed the “toilet bowl”). In addition, the aging waterslide tower purchased in 2003 from Wally World (RIP) will be replaced with the same bullet and caterpillar slide designs. Park management said it hopes to have all this work done in time for the first weekend in June, right ahead of summer holidays.


The upshot: It’s a big swing from East Park, an investment that in size and scope eclipses its last major investment, the installation of a $2.5-million wave pool in 2018. It was a substantial enough investment to get the mayor to show up, too. “We need to grow a great place to live, and that includes quality of life improvements, and that includes places to have fun, make memories as family, friends and loved ones, and East Park is a phenomenal place for that to happen,” Mayor Josh Morgan said at the announcement. According to StatsCan, water and amusement parks have rebounded well after the pandemic, so the time is probably right to replace some of the old infrastructure with new, fancier slides. East Park just celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, and the investment suggests they see more growth in the future.

Read more: CTV News London | East Park London

New fees from The Beer Store riles local establishments

There’s a new headache coming down the pike for small bars and restaurants: on April 1, all orders from The Beer Store will be subject to a $1,500 minimum order or be subject to a $175 fee. And that’s got a number of local establishments peeved. “During our slower season, we’ll have trouble meeting that threshold,” J Dee’s Market Grill owner Jim Davies told CBC News London. Mark Dencev, owner of the Richmond Tavern, added that it’s the latest in a long string of issues that has led him to change his mix of beers, which used to be 90 per cent Labatt products. “From The Beer Store and LCBO, we’re seeing increases that are outpacing inflation and we’re losing our base clientele ― that blue-collar, on-the-way-home-from-work pint crowd,” he told CBC’s Kate Dubinsky. The Beer Store (majority owned by Molson-Coors, Labatt and Sleeman, which are in turn owned by multinationals), hasn’t commented publicly yet, but told bar owners in a letter that the change was part of their “ongoing journey of customer service delivery.”


The upshot: It’s a somewhat odd move for the conglomerate behind The Beer Store, with wrangling over the Master Framework Agreement ongoing ahead of its 2025 expiration. Do you want to put a bigger target on your back for the Ford government, which has pretty much already indicated a willingness to cut you down in size? The plus side to all of this is that it could help out the smaller Ontario breweries, from whom bars can order directly. Case in point, Gavin Anderson of London’s Anderson Craft Ales said, “Us and other craft producers don’t have minimum orders. We don’t have a delivery fee. We can drop you off a keg or cases of beer, you call us and we’ll drive it over that week. Every year since we’ve opened [in 2016], we’ve seen an increase in local restaurants stocking us. I think it’s our service and competitive pricing.” We’ll raise a pint to that.  

Read more: CBC News London

Scales of justice: Is an end in sight for the Reptilia dispute?

Reptilia and the City of London were briefly in court on Monday, hashing out whether the reptile zoo in Westmount Commons Mall is exempt from the municipal animal control bylaw that essentially forbids it from operating. The emphasis here is on briefly ― the hearing lasted all of about five minutes, with the city’s lawyers requesting an adjournment until next month, citing delays in getting Reptilia’s materials. But an end might be in sight: lawyers did say that a settlement offer has been made (no details were provided about which side initiated settlement talks), and council is set to receive details about that offer on April 2. Both sides agreed to adjourn the matter until April 12.


The upshot: Reptilia’s strategy of simply ignoring the animal control bylaw, city be damned, is a tried-and-true strategy for exotic animal operations in Ontario. As yours truly has written about in the past, passing an exotic animal control bylaw is one thing, while actually managing to enforce it is another. (Reptilia argues that holding a provincial business license and city occupancy permit entitles the indoor zoo to an exemption as set out in the bylaw.) On evidence thus far, you’d have to say that Reptilia hasn’t caused much of a problem. The other operators in Westmount have found them to be an agreeable neighbour, there’s lots of glowing reviews on Google and, as far as anyone knows, none of the residents have breached their zoo habitats. So, for now, it’s status quo, but it looks like this lengthy dispute might be slithering its way to a conclusion.  

Read more: CTV News London

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From the magazine: Contemporary joinery

By merging distinct yet complementary ventures, Covenant Construction opens up new options and perspectives.

Read more: London Inc.

Western launches women-only advanced machining course

The Faculty of Engineering at Western University has launched its first all-women advanced machine shop training course. “Created to provide hands-on, technical training, the course offers a women-only section in response to feedback from Women in Engineering, a student group that provides social and academic support for future and current women engineering students at Western.” the school said this week. The idea is to create a space for women to develop their technical shop skills in a less intimidating environment, acknowledging that many women in engineering come into the program not having taken traditional shop courses in high school. One student, Abby Di Laudo (pictured on left with Madeleine Macdonald, Amelia Jiang and Rakhee Patel), told Western News that “my unfamiliarity made me feel insecure in machine shop settings,” and that “having this opportunity was important because these technical skills, along with confidence in a machine shop environment, are often barriers to entry.” Anthony Straatman, chair of the mechanical and materials engineering department, said that early feedback has been good. “The students are really enjoying it,” he said. “The sessions for women aim to address the hesitations of students in mixed workshops.” 


The upshot: Boosting the number of women in STEM fields has been a point of focus for the engineering community over the past two decades, including in London, where advanced manufacturing employs around 35,000 workers. The goal set by Engineers Canada is their “30 by 30” initiative, a campaign that aims to increase the representation of women within engineering to 30 per cent by 2030, a benchmark they say is “the tipping point for sustainable change.” (Western Engineering says this is their target for enrollment as well). As of the end of 2022, the field is still overwhelmingly male, with women making up just shy of 20 per cent of the field. 

Read more: Western News

City inches closer to renoviction bylaw

City politicians moved one step closer to passing a renoviction bylaw this week, praising a staff report outlining a proposed regulatory approach brought before the community and protective services committee and asking staff to report back with cost estimates and a draft bylaw. The bylaw city staff are proposing (essentially a version of Hamilton’s similar bylaw) wouldn’t outright ban landlords from requiring vacant units to do repairs, but would require them to get a license from the city to do so, and require them to provide compensation to the tenant for the duration of the renovation, either in the form of alternate housing or financial compensation equal to market rent, with the goal of clamping down on landlords undertaking drawn out renovations that make it infeasible for the tenant to exercise their existing right of return. “The intent would be to help protect tenants from bad-faith renovations which have the consequence of displacing people and furthering the housing affordability crisis,” said city staff.


The upshot: London is among the leading Ontario cities in the number of N12 and N13 evictions filed over the past six years and has one of the fastest-rising average rents, so you get a sense for why both city staff and politicians are eager to move quickly on this file; the city’s director of municipal compliance Orest Katolyk called it “the most important item on our to-do list from a policy perspective.” The city also wants to be seen as a leader in housing densification, having recently increased the as-of-right unit cap and scrapped the bedroom cap. It’s reasonable to assume that those moves will likely kick-start a wave of renovations as landlords look to add units to their properties (the intent of the policy) ― but the city believes tenants need to be afforded some greater protections to avoid large numbers of people displaced from affordable, if aging, units. 

Read more: Global News London | London Free Press

Dispatch: March 22, 2024

A summary of recent business appointments and announcements, plus event listings for the upcoming week.

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