lambretta pizzeria

Toronto pizza joint shuts down after not getting rent relief from landlord

Toronto pizza joint Lambretta Pizzeria shut down yesterday and its owner blames the property owner for not seeking financial assistance from the government.

Celina Blanchard, who operates Lambretta at 89 Roncesvalles Avenue, closed her doors permanently Saturday night after nearly five years in the neighbourhood. 

"I think I’m still in shock that this is happening," says Blanchard. "This is my livelihood. I honestly don't know what to do." 

Blanchard was forced to close her restaurant temporarily in March amidst the pandemic. She was able to pay her rent for the next month, and re-opened Lambretta for takeout on April 15. 

But unable to make May rent, she'd hoped that the property owner would apply to the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which could have reduced Lambretta's rent by 75 per cent. 

And that's all folks. Thank you to Roncy! ❤ We can't thank you enough for all the kindness, support and encouragement that we have received during this COVID19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we didn't survive this crisis but we're grateful for the many friends, loyal guests and families that enjoyed many great memories with us. Stay safe and maybe we'll see you again at a different location with a reasonable landlord 🤞🍕❤😘 #lambrettapizzeria #morethanjustpizza #savehospitalityca #RENTRELIEF #RestaurantRelief #covidtoronto @roncesvillage @torontodotcom @restaurantscanada @blogto @citynewstoronto @thetorontostar @torontosunonline @karonliu @globeandmail @fordnationdougford @johntory

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The CECRA was rolled out last month as a way to ease the burden on small businesses struggling to pay their commercial rent.

Landlords who apply for the program would see the Federal government subsidize have their commercial rent via a forgivable loan, though critics have stated the government should be doing more, like putting a moratorium on all commercial evictions. 

But Blanchard's landlord, Daniel Pitoscia of Liberty Atlantic Inc., did not enrol for CECRA, as 80 per cent of Canadian landlords were projected not to do. 

According to Scott Turton, a legal representative of Liberty Atlantic, the landlord did not apply to CECRA because the program details are not yet finalized, which leaves uncertainty whether or not the property at 89 Roncesvalles Ave. is eligible for the relief at all. 

He also cited confusion over a 30 per cent commercial component requirement, which was initially referred to as the main reason why Liberty Atlantic did not apply for the program, and is referenced on the Ontario government's website but not on the CMHC website. 

"As the program details are still evolving, and the program is not open for anyone to apply, no landlords have applied and it is rather difficult for a landlord to determine if it can or should apply for a program whose details have yet to be determined by the government," said Turton. 

However, there are tenants who report their landlords have applied for the CECRA, though whether those properties have qualified is another story. 

"If the government allowed the small business to apply, the power would be on us and not the landlord," says Blanchard, who blames the Federal government for allowing landlords to flout the option of rent relief for their commercial tenants. 

"It's not even mandatory for the landlords to apply for the program. The government left us hanging." 

On top of this, Blanchard filed a lawsuit against Liberty Atlantic in 2018 for damages of about $150,000: another process that has been delayed by the pandemic. 

"I’m hoping for a miracle of some kind," she says. "It's just sad that this is the way it ends up being for me. And I realize I’m not the only one." 

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