Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.

Rhino Lounge to shutter; ownership team to open new full-service room at RiverBend

After a decade operating out of Museum London, the Rhino Lounge is set to close next week, its owners announced. “We have operated at Museum London since 2014. However, these past few years have drastically changed the landscape of downtown London,” wrote the owners (who also run Craft Farmacy, North Moore Catering and The River Room, the latter of which is also located at Museum London) in an Instagram post on Tuesday. “More people are working from home resulting in fewer people working in the core. In addition, the rising costs of food, labour and the lack of available-affordable parking in the area has contributed to our decision to close our operations at this location.” They added that their pastry team will move operations to their catering kitchen at 449 Wharncliffe Road South (the same building that houses Craft Farmacy restaurant) and will continue selling desserts at their remaining restaurants and via wholesale to other area food service operators.


The upshot: Like many, the Rhino Lounge looks to be one of those businesses which never quite regained the foot traffic from the pre-pandemic era and have been forced to pivot. (On that front, having Craft Farmacy, North Moore Catering and The River Room provides a good cushion.) The owners also announced they have a new spot in the works ― a California-themed restaurant called Los Olivos at 2140 Kains Road, right at the entrance to the private golf community at RiverBend. “Think hamachi crudo, wagyu tenderloin, tuna carpaccio salad, warm olives, lobster rolls,” said co-owner Jess Jazey-Spoelstra. The new kitchen will be helmed by Kyle Trafford, former sous chef at Craft Farmacy, and will have a 65-seat patio. “Los Olivos will be a fantastic addition to the London restaurant scene and will help fill the gaps in the RiverBend area offering local dining options.” 

Read more: Rhino Lounge

Aduro Clean Technologies pioneers advanced recycling of tough polymers

Aduro Clean Technologies, a developer of patented water-based technologies to transform waste plastics and low-grade renewable oils into renewable fuels and specialty chemicals, has achieved promising results from preliminary tests using its Hydrochemolytic technology to recycle hard-to-decompose crosslinked polymers, achieving up to 84 per cent conversion into valuable lower-molecular-weight hydrocarbons. These breakthroughs for the Newbold Street headquartered firm indicate potential for significant advancements in the recycling of materials used in various industries, from automotive to construction, and position the company to explore further applications in tire rubber and other elastomeric materials.


The upshot: At the core of Aduro’s novel chemical conversion process is a low-cost deconstruction process that works on plastics that are most difficult to handle, converting them into components useful as either fuels or in chemical recycling to produce new, virgin plastics in a circular regime. “This milestone confirms our preliminary assessment that we can provide customizable solutions tailored to industry specific requirements,” said Eric Appelman, chief revenue office at Aduro. “We were able to transform XLPE waste into high-quality liquid hydrocarbons, with an impressive conversion yield, enhancing the material's lifecycle and providing a reliable feedstock for refineries. This development addresses a critical challenge in the industry and opens new avenues for sustainable material management.”

Read more: GlobeNewswire | Innovating Canada

Future of Children’s Festival murky as city reinstates no-ride policy in Victoria Park

City hall is renewing a policy that bans amusement-park style rides in Victoria Park, and in doing so has dealt a blow to the London Children’s Festival, said organizer Doug Hillier. City hall has told Hillier that the festival can’t put its rides on the grass of Vic Park this year, something it temporarily allowed for the last two years as a bit of leeway for the festival to help it recover post-pandemic. Paul Yeoman, the city’s director of parks and forestry, said the rule is about protecting the health of the grass and the trees at the park. This is not good news for Hillier, though. “If I can’t get rides in the middle, [the Children’s Festival} not happen again,” he told The London Free Press. “This will be the last year.”


The upshot: For years, the rides at the Children’s Festival had been located on Dufferin Avenue, along the perimeter of the park, without issue. But construction on rapid transit nearby meant that the city was more permissive in allowing the rides to be moved onto the grass. According to Hillier, there’s actually a measurable difference in revenue between rides on the grass and rides on the street: no rides at all means a loss of $40,000 in revenue, while rides only on the street would mean a loss of about $20,000 in revenue. “We’ve done this for two years without an issue,” Hillier said. “No one complained. In fact, we had nothing but compliments.” Still, the city may have a point that trucking in rides on the grass may not be the best thing for the park itself. Either way, this year’s festival, set to take place June 14 to 16, is going ahead, rides or no rides. Hillier is hoping that the city will take another look at the policy. “All my vendors are counting on this,” he said. “They came in droves when we had rides in the park.” 

Read more: London Free Press

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Western researchers announce major breakthrough in race to cure ALS

Western University researchers have announced a “groundbreaking Canadian discovery” in the field of ALS research, one they say could chart a potential path toward a cure for the neurodegenerative disease (known more commonly as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Dr. Michael Strong (pictured) recently published work that uncovered an interaction between two proteins that can halt or reverse the disease, as well as a mechanism by which it can be made possible. “It is a gamechanger,” Strong said. “This interaction could be key to unlocking a treatment not just for ALS but also for other related neurological conditions, like frontotemporal dementia.” The announcement of the breakthrough findings is being paired with the announcement of a new $10-million investment from James and Louse Temerty and the Temerty Foundation, with the goal of continuing to advance the team’s work.


The upshot: It’s a milestone for ALS research as well as Dr. Strong, who has been leading Western’s ALS research for three decades. “The important piece then comes over the next three to five years,” Strong told Global News, as they look to bring their findings to clinical trials on human ALS patients. On this point, Dr. Strong’s lab says it will be teaming up with collaborators in British Columbia and Italy to explore different approaches to turning the research into a form of treatment. “This is like swinging for the bleachers with three bats,” he told the Toronto Star. “One of them, hopefully, will get us, within three to five years, into phase one clinical studies.”  

Read more: Western News | Toronto Star

London Chamber announces nominees for 2024 Business Achievement Awards

Earlier this week the London Chamber of Commerce released the nominee list for the 2024 Business Achievement Awards. The all-encompassing list (a total of 71 organizations by London Inc.’s count) pretty much represents the entire spectrum of our local business community — everything from food and beverage, tech and professional services firms to a host of specialized manufacturers and community-minded organizations. The nominees are spread over nine categories, and an initial judging process will whittle down the list to 24 finalist firms by early summer. Those firms will go on to be further scrutinized, and the awards will be presented to the winning organizations at the 41st Annual Business Achievement Awards Gala on September 25 at RBC Place London. The BAA program also includes the annual Corporate Icon Award, given annually to a business that has demonstrated a substantial long-term contribution to the economic progress of the London community. Unlike other BAA awards, the Corporate Icon Award will be announced in advance of the awards gala. 


The upshot: The fun now begins for the preliminary BAA judges, who will meticulously review and reduce the substantial nominee list to 24 finalists. Statistics like revenues, employment growth and bottom-line results are all important criteria in selecting the finalists, but other qualities like innovation, culture and community-building are equally critical. “At the heart of the Business Achievement Awards’ success are its volunteer judges, who play an instrumental role in shaping the event’s outcome,” London Chamber CEO Graham Henderson told London Inc. “With meticulous dedication, a substantial group of preliminary judges meticulously review the applications, diligently sifting through the candidates to narrow them down to a handful of exceptional finalists.”

Read more: London Chamber

On again, off again, on again: Free parking program returns to core commercial districts

After being extended, then allowed to expire, then balked at by a city committee, a Covid-era free parking program is back on for the rest of the year. On Tuesday, city council voted 11 to three to spend $330,000 out of city reserves to extend the one-hour free parking program until the end of 2024, something they hope will give downtown and Old East Village a bit “more runway” until the eventual end of subsidized parking. The free parking program will now offer one hour of on-street parking in downtown, Richmond Row, Midtown and OEV, as well as one hour of free parking in two municipal lots in OEV. The program is something business groups in the area have been lobbying strongly for as they try to revive their fortunes post-pandemic. “I think there’s value right now in continuing to provide businesses with some support,” said Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.


The upshot: The case of the never-ending free parking promotion? Some councillors worry that this is the situation developing around the free parking promo, which keeps getting extended as a hand up to small businesses. There’s some apprehension around the council table about how long this will go on for. These kinds of programs can be sticky, argued Councillor Sam Trosow. “There’s a reasonable possibility that once we get into having people expect this from their HONK [parking] app, it will be very difficult to change it,” he said. “I’m not one to say that we are going to continue subsidizing these parking rates forever,” added Lewis. “We have to move away from this and look for another way to do this program, but I think there’s value right now.” It looks likely, at this point, that this debate will once again come up towards the end of the year, if businesses are still keen to see subsidized parking renewed for 2025. 

Read more: CTV News London | London Free Press

Dispatch: May 17, 2024

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

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