When a business celebrates its 10th anniversary, it seldom does it by cutting hours.
But that is what is happening with the popular eatery at Highway 6 at County Road 51 – although the owner is doing so reluctantly.
Gerry O’Donnell said the much needed widening of Highway 6 took away too much of his parking lot – and that means many of his senior-age clients have too far to walk to get to the door. They used to be able to park in front of the restaurant, facing the highway as well facing the as the restaurant – right out front.
But the Ministry of Transportation widened the highway.
“The existing island moved 38 inches,” he said. “In doing that, they took 28 feet [of parking] – the length of a car.”
O’Donnell said his clients are now forced to park on the other side of several motel rooms he rents – a walk of over 100 feet for them, and, he said, “They don’t want to do that.”
Particularly in winter, through snow, slush, and cold.
Consequently, David’s has cut its hours. It used to be open until 8pm week nights except Mondays. Now, it opens at 8am and closes at 2pm. O’Donnell agreed that effectively cuts the business in half.
“We’re going to limit our hours while continuing to provide the style of morning sit down dining that has satisfied so many thousands of our patrons over the years – particularly weekends – when we opened earlier in the day.” He was particularly upset because people liked what David’s had to offer. “They have been very loyal to us; very good to us.”
What irks him is the Ministry of Transportation, when it widened the road in front of the restaurant, had a wide ditch and plenty of field across the road, and could have left his business untouched.
He said the ministry has owned the land since the 1920s or so, but officials were unwilling to even discuss his issues.
He said MPP Ted Arnott has been working on the problem and visited, and has written twice to the ministry to see what can be done.
“Ted was down here,” O’Donnell said. “He said it was kind of ludicrous.”
David’s lost 17 parking spaces. O’Donnell said the ministry replaced those with an island “that does nothing.” He added the ministry also designated handicapped parking 100 feet from the front door.
“It’s become too difficult, having to push your walker, or push your spouse’s wheelchair from 100 feet away – particularly in inclement weather and through slush and snow.”
O’Donnell said that problem, combined with multi-na-tional food companies opening ever larger premises, are making it impossible to compete, even though his business is known for home quality food that it serves.
The MTO Regional Director said in an interview on Tuesday afternoon that the ministry was well aware of O’Donnell’s complaints, and tried its best to work with him.
Brian Peltier said that O’Donnell has the right to place handicapped parking anywhere on his property, and that he can designate those spaces nearer to the restaurant if he wishes.
Peltier said the ministry gave the restaurant parking spaces to the north of the complex to make up for those that it took immediately in front of the restaurant.
“We tried to work with him to address his concerns,” Peltier said. “We did what we could without compromising public safety. He said the ministry had to make a right turn lane onto County Road 51 West, so the road was widened.
Peltier also stated that the larger island was necessary because some people were parking their cars in front of the restaurant and obscuring the view of people headed eastbound on County Road 51 West, who wanted to make a left turn.
He said the large island prevents vehicles from obscuring the view, and noted it is similar to the “daylight triangles” municipalities have to deal with on roads.
The requirement is that drivers can see to make a turn onto a busy Highway 6.
O’Donnell does have some hope that the restaurant’s hours can be extended again, but in a different season.
But, he added, with the situation as it now stands, those first ten years are a memory.
“It will never be what it was,” he predicted.