Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Non-Sals eateries shut out of Esplanade, Smith says

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WINNIPEG restaurants other than Salisbury House have been deprived of the opportunity to set up shop on Esplanade Riel, says Daniel McIntyre Coun. Harvey Smith.

In February 2005, city council's executive policy committee approved a deal to allow Salisbury House to operate inside the enclosed plaza space in the middle of Esplanade Riel, the pedestrian bridge connecting downtown to St. Boniface.

Under the terms of the deal, Salisbury House would pay $2,000 a month over a five-year term, with the option to renew the lease for two more five-year terms.

The first term expired during the summer of 2010, and no new lease is yet in place.

"The department is negotiating a new lease with the current tenant," city spokeswoman Michelle Bailey said in a statement. "In the meantime, we are respecting existing agreements until a new one is in place."

Smith said he wants to know why the city's real estate division waited two years after the initial lease expired.

"Why have we let Salisbury House continue to operate with such a low rent?" asked Smith in a prepared statement. "Why have we not sought another restaurant to operate on the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge?"

The City of Winnipeg did not respond to a query about the two-year delay. Officials at Salisbury House of Canada's Winnipeg headquarters also did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2005, Smith was among several councillors who asked former city auditor Shannon Hunt to review Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz's participation in the EPC vote that granted Salisbury House the right to operate on Esplanade Riel. In his role as president of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club, Katz had approved a loan to Maple Leaf Distillers, a now-defunct company that had officers and investors in common with Salisbury House.

At the time, Salisbury House presented a clearly superior bid for Esplanade Riel, former city property director Harry Finnigan said. There are no business ties today between Katz and Salisbury House, which is now led by president Earl Barish.

The two city councillors who represent Esplanade Riel -- St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal and Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi -- said they had no knowledge of any new discussions involving the occupancy of the plaza space on the pedestrian bridge.

Smith's complaint about the lease is the latest of several issues councillors have raised about Winnipeg's real estate division, which is under fire primarily due to its role in a proposed swap of two old fire-paramedic stations and a parcel of vacant Fort Rouge land for the Shindico Realty-owned site of a new fire-paramedic station.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 A3

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