pegasus toronto

Toronto bar writes heartbreaking letter saying they're almost broken and can't survive

On May 1, Glad Day Bookshop shared a heart-wrenching letter written by the owner of a fellow Church Wellesley Village business with the words, "We share the same landlord. Our community is at risk."

What follows is a passionate letter penned by Pegasus on Church owner Christopher Hudspeth posted to Facebook.

Addressed to MP Bill Mornaeu, Premier Doug Ford, MPP Suze Morrison, Mayor John Tory, Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam and Councillor Brad Bradford, it begins "I sit here today, almost broken and like many other business people, looking at what could be the end of our livelihoods. This the day before May's rent is due."

He continues, "In 2013 after 19 years of operation, I bought the local bar that I had worked at for almost a decade. For the past six and a half years, I have built this business and modernized it for the times. Pegasus On Church has now been a fixture in the LGBTQ community for 25 years and is more than just a bar."

Hudspeth is chair of The Village BIA and, like many business owners, applied for the CEBA loan and the CEWS subsidy for wages.

However, he says "the CEBA loan, although it is a great help to pay some of the fixed costs that the business have, will be of little help if it needed to pay the rent. If used for rent, that would only last over three months with nothing for the other fixed costs. "

He continues to say Pegasus is "looking at several months (in the third wave of reopening) before we could reopen as a bar. When we open, I can expect occupancy restrictions and a rebuilding of business before we might see normal operations again."

Hudspeth says he rejoiced when the CECRA program was first introduced, but when he got in touch with the landlord of Pegasus after several attempts, he said he had no interest in considering it.

The landlord replied that the program wouldn't apply because he has a mortgage on that property, adding that "[he's] not getting into any government schemes" because "they never work."

According to the letter Hudspeth wrote, the landlord would only agree to defer the rent to after reopening.

"I can't take on even more debt," says Hudspeth. "I feel backed in the corner by a landlord that is just unwilling to give up 25 per cent of the rent and help shoulder the burden together, like the government is doing. This is the response after paying all of the rent on time each month for 25 years. We need help and we can't just defer the debt."

Hudspeth goes on to write that many have expressed the only thing that might encourage landlords to accept the program is a moratorium on commercial evictions.

"Pegasus has been proud to be a great employer in the community with one of the lowest turn-over rates in the hospitality business," Hudspeth writes. "My staff worry that they will have jobs to go back to when this is over. I worry about how I will tell them that I couldn't save the bar or their job."

The letter concludes with a question: "Can Pegasus survive or do we like several already on Church Street just throw in the towel and give up the fight?"

Commenters on the Pegasus on Church Facebook page suggest starting a GoFundMe, messaging the landlord and finding out what other properties they might be doing this to.

Pegasus on Church replies, "The province has the power. They control the commercial rent environment. Contact your MPP and sign the petition. Enough pressure on the government and they will pressure or penalize bad landlords." 

Other business owners also appear to be commenting that they're experiencing similar issues and wish the government would make the program mandatory.

"We all love Pegasus and what you do for the community," wrote one commenter. "It's now time for us to have your back."

Here's the full text of the letter.

--

I sit here today, almost broken and like many other business people, looking at what could be the end of our livelihoods. This the day before May’s rent is due.

In 2013 after 19 years of operation, I bought the local bar that I had worked at for almost a decade. For the past six and a half years, I have built this business and modernized it for the times. Pegasus On Church has now been a fixture in the LGBTQ community for 25 years and is more than just a bar. It is one of the few historic gathering spots for LGBTQ people left in Toronto.

As Chair of The Village BIA (Church/Wellesley), I have heard many heartbreaking stories as people navigate these turbulent times. Businesses have been mandated shut and others still trying to serve the community while all the while trying to remain solvent so that we can operate another day.

To tackle this virus, it is important that we all do our part. I think that all levels have government have done well to put party lines aside and work together to create programs that help people and businesses survive.

I have, like many business owners, applied for the CEBA loan and the CEWS subsidy for wages. I am glad that these things are there. Even though as a business we had set aside money to help in times of need, that money will dry up quickly.

The CEBA loan, although it is a great help to pay some of the fixed costs that the business have, will be of little help if it needed to pay the rent. If used for rent, that would only last over three months with nothing for the other fixed costs.

I knew that even with these programs, I could project that we could only stay viable for a few months. I am looking at several months (in the third wave of reopening) before we could reopen as a bar.

When we open, I can expect occupancy restrictions and a rebuilding of business before we might see normal operations again. So when the CECRA program was introduced, I rejoiced! A life line! A program that would share the burden and give the necessary breathing room from one of the largest, single costs I endure each month, the rent.

Excited about the CECRA, I contacted my landlord. After several attempts he finally spoke to me. He was less than excited. In fact, he had no interest in considering it.

He said, “Oh that wouldn’t apply to me because I have a mortgage on that property.” When I pressed it again, he flatly said, “I’m not getting into any government schemes, they never work.” The landlords only solution was to offer to defer the rent to after I reopen and only if I sign a personal guarantee for the delinquent rent.

I can’t take on even more debt. It is going to be a struggle yet to get back up and running. I feel backed in the corner by a landlord that is just unwilling to give up 25% of the rent and help shoulder the burden together, like the government is doing. This is the response after paying all of the rent on time each month for 25 years. We need help and we can’t just defer the debt.

Sometimes the programs just stop a bit too short to be effective for all. There has to be a way to get the landlords to accept the program. Many have suggested that a moratorium on commercial evictions would be one way that would encourage some to be accepting of the program.

Pegasus has been proud to be a great employer in the community with one of the lowest turn-over rates in the hospitality business. My staff worry that they will have jobs to go back to when this is over. I worry about how I will tell them that I couldn’t save the bar or their job. This is what is keeping business owners up at night.

So I sit here today, shaking my head, not knowing where to turn next. Can someone help? Is there help for small business? Can Pegasus survive or do we like several already on Church Street just throw in the towel and give up the fight?

Respectfully,

Christopher Hudspeth
Owner, Pegasus On Church Inc.

Lead photo by

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