UPDATE: Councillors voted to defer decision on Farr’s proposal pending more information from Hamilton Police. Councillors wish to have an update on costs, the necessity of the extra officers, and alternatives to sworn police officers. The matter will return to the next Planning Committee meeting on June 16.
Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr says paying for policing is hurting the ability of Hess Village bars to market themselves and attract customers – resulting in a drop of approximately 65 percent in patrons.
Farr proposes the City take on 65 percent of the annual $115,000 in extra policing costs incurred to deal with the problems of alcohol-influenced public disorder and violence in the Hess Village area during the bar nights of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Despite the extra policing, the number of incidents have created a public perception of Hess Village which is decreasing business.
This perception, combined with competition of Sarcoa nightclub, which leases from the Hamilton Waterfront Trust, resulted in the Village having a significant decrease in revenue last summer.
Farr sums the economic impact in his motion:
Hess Village, Hamilton’s only defined entertainment district, once employed approximately 500, now employs approximately 250 and the average number of patron’s during the patio season has decreased by approximately 65 percent
Farr hopes relieving the businesses of paid duty costs will enable them to put more funds into marketing and creating a Business Improvement Area to assist in recovering their businesses.
Paid Duty fees were imposed by Council in 2010 to address the increased need for police response to Hess Village and have been contested by the owners in Hess Village.
At present, owners are required to pay their paid duty fees which are then held in trust by the City of Hamilton pending the outcome of a court case challenging the paid duty bylaw.
Numerous owners have fallen behind on their paid duty fees – facing the risk of suspension of their local business license. (On Friday, May 22, the Hamilton Licensing Tribunal will deal with the matter of Ora Italian Grill & Bar which is behind on its paid duty fee payments.)
Councillor Farr’s motion will be debated at Planning Committee on May 19.