A proposal to reopen the former Arkell General Store has met with some concerns, primarily due to a request for a liquor licence.
The application was discussed by Puslinch councillors on Oct. 7.
Applicant Stephen Goyda of The Dirty Apron Ltd. is requesting the licence for both serving indoors and at an outdoor patio.
In their letter to council, Glenna and Douglas Smith stated, “A number of residents in Arkell are very concerned about the Liquor Sales Licence Application that has been submitted by the Dirty Apron, 599 Arkell Road.”
The building is on the south west comer of Arkell and Watson Roads and currently owned by John Sloot.
The Smiths considered both parking and traffic in general as problems in the area.
“We ask that you seriously look at the safety of the residents of Arkell when making a decision on this matter,” the Smiths stated.
In his written correspondence Goyda stated “I’m the chef/owner of The Dirty Apron Ltd. and it is my intention to reopen the Arkell store.
“As a resident of Arkell (residing on Watson Road South with my wife and three young children) I would like to clear the air and let you know that it is not my intention to open up a bar or night club in Arkell.”
He noted his wife’s grandfather opened the Arkell Country Mart many years ago and it was a place where the community could come together in fellowship and camaraderie.
“I am hoping to bring the spirit of that store back with my own little take on it. What I am opening is a small market and bistro establishment of 18 seats where the community can come and enjoy local meats and produce, light meals and snacks, take part in a cooking class, reserve a chef’s table for special occasions, and sample some craft beer,” Goyda explained.
He stated his intention with the liquor licence is to be able to offer a glass of wine/beer while people are enjoying a nice meal or sampling some of the latest menu options.
“It is not my intention to have the store open until all hours of the night, nor is it my intention to allow disruptions to our wonderful community. The liquor licence is intended to allow me to offer an additional level of service to the community while enjoying a meal without having to drive into Guelph.”
In outlining his plan, Goyda said one of the main thrusts will be the market area to pick up fresh food, soup stock and fresh sauces. He has already contacted some local farmers and food purveyors in the area to showcase their items.
The kitchen in the back would be where the food would be prepared, along with conducting cooking classes. And the front area would be for seating for a bistro café – using products that are in the store to create some meals for the community.
“It’s very food oriented and food focussed,” Goyda said.
He added, “the liquor licence is to offer another level of service over and above the food. So if you choose to have a glass of wine or beer with your meal, then I would be able to offer that.”
Goyda stressed “this is not intended to be a destination where you go to hang out and drink for four hours.”
Goyda pointed out he is a trained chef and is currently executive chef at Deer Ridge Golf Club in Kitchener.
Regardless of the liquor licence, Goyda noted there were a few additional speed bumps he needs to address, including septic, garbage and parking issues.
Goyda is having a firm come in to undertake a septic system evaluation to determine what needs to be done. After that, a survey can be done to establish on-site parking areas.
He also stressed the licence application for 128 seats is a bit misleading, noting the agency determines an application based on total square footage.
“I’m looking at only really having 18 seats – I don’t want to run a full-scale restaurant. That’s what I’m leaving to do this,” explained Goyda.
He said the area included in the application includes the market and kitchen area – resulting in numbers for a maximum occupancy for the buildings.
Councillor Susan Fielding asked what the township’s responsibility is.
CAO Karen Landry said the township’s concerns would be zoning, fire protection and municipal bylaw compliance. She noted the property is already zoned as commercial – but there may be challenges meeting minimum parking requirements. Goyda agreed that even to open he would need approval of a site plan.
Fielding said a lot of people are looking at what will be established.
Goyda said quite a few people have been very supportive and he has tried to address the issues of those who have expressed concerns.
Councillor Matthew Bulmer supports the idea of the reopening of a restaurant, but he understood some of the residents’ concerns.
He said a number of them were concerned about the difference in the potential number of patrons in Goyda’s proposal and what was cited in the liquor application.
He asked whether the licence needs to be for the entire space – or whether it can reflect the intended seating.
Goyda said he is in communication with the licencing agency to see if certain areas can be removed. However, he said the issue is that licenced and unlicenced areas must have a barrier, which goes against his idea of opening the building up to make it more welcoming.
Councillor Ken Roth was supportive, but believed Goyda still has a great deal of work ahead to get everything into compliance.
Roth also asked about the licenced patio, since it was close to neighbours.
Goyda said he plans to rebuild the patio within a smaller area to create more privacy – but in an outdoor venue.
Mayor Dennis Lever believed the proposal “is a great idea for the community of Arkell.”
While he supported the concept, Lever was clear that he wanted to see all the technical details addressed and resolved with staff ahead of time.