It’s game over for The Pinball Cafe
By Jon Sufrin
The Pinball Cafe (Image: Karolyne Ellacott)
The owners of Parkdale’s The Pinball Cafe have decided to shut down their business in response to city bylaws.
The Pinball Cafe opened in February of this year, before its business licence had been approved. Co-owner Jason Hazzard, who ran the venue with his wife Rachel, says that they didn’t expect any serious issues in getting a licence.
To their surprise, the café was denied its licence due to a zoning bylaw that forbids more than two pinball or other mechanical or electronic game machines in a restaurant or place of amusement. True to its namesake, The Pinball Cafe had many pinball machines — at one point, it had nine.
Still, rather than comply with the bylaw, the Hazzards decided to operate The Pinball Cafe illegally, without its licence.
“The bylaw is ridiculous,” Mr. Hazzard says. “It seems antiquated, in the age of Nintendo, that this would be an issue.”
After months of operating illegally, the Hazzards finally agreed to get rid of some of their pinball machines in order to get a business licence. But it was too late: Parkdale had been slapped with a ban on new restaurants and bars.
Tired of red tape — and of operating illegally — the Hazzards decided to call it quits.
City Councillor Gord Perks wrote on his website that the Hazzards could have demonstrated more cooperation with the city.
“I met with the owners of the Pinball Cafe in February of this year and urged them to get a business licence and offered them suggestions for two possible ways to do this. They could apply to the Committee of Adjustment to allow for a ‘variance’ from the zoning rules, or they could ask City Council to change the zoning of this property. It appears the owners did neither.”
Mr. Hazzard admits that his business woes are largely self-inflicted, but he does think it’s unfortunate that he had to deal with that type of bureaucracy in the first place.
“These aren’t the arcades of Yonge Street that were frequented by drug dealers,” he says.