Months after a battle with city hall forced the Wolseley-area Neighbourhood Bookstore and Café to close, it has reopened.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/12/2016 (1546 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Months after a battle with city hall forced the Wolseley-area Neighbourhood Bookstore and Café to close, it has reopened.

The popular gathering place at 898 Westminster Ave. isn’t serving food, its hours have been cut and customers are advised to take their own beverages while they browse through the books.

The reopening happened almost by accident.

As people begin drifting back, the atmosphere seemed like a pop-up meeting place.

Owner Bill Fugler said he’s spent six years battling city hall over a bylaw that mandates he install a grease trap.

The city requires any establishment that serves food to install one, but he argued he only serves sandwiches and baked goods and doesn’t have a grill or a stove.

Under the bylaw, which is intended to ease the burden on Winnipeg’s waste water system, grease traps must be connected to each kitchen sink and dishwasher waste pipe in a food-service establishment, unless that establishment has been granted an exemption.

Last summer, Fugler said he was facing $12,500 in fines, court costs and renovation estimates — "that’s more than I make in half a year" — over the dispute.

He had objected in court to the city’s requirement for a grease trap. The business was set to undergo another inspection in August, and Fugler said rather than be slapped with more fines, he decided to close, putting 10 people out of work.

Fugler applied for an exemption three times — and was rejected.

At the time, he told the Free Press many of his friends offered to help pay for a grease trap, but he refused on principle, likening installing a grease trap to paying ransom.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Bill Fugler will face off against the city in court Dec. 22.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Bill Fugler will face off against the city in court Dec. 22.

Last week, he decided to reopen the café.

For now, doors are open Tuesday to Thursday, noon to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m.

"We’re still in exactly the same mess we were, but I’ve sold all my RRSPs and I need to get a new job, sell the building or open it up again."

The community’s response has been tremendous, Fugler said.

"People came in (saying), ‘We’re so happy. You’re back.’ The really weird thing I love is people are in here and someone will offhandedly say, ‘Well, this happened to so-and-so’ and the other person will say ‘What?’ and ‘How did I not hear about it?’

"And I’m realizing some of the lines of communication are definitely being cut by our being closed," Fugler said.

Fugler said the city has granted 140 exemptions to the bylaw. He said he has the records to prove it, following an access-to-information search.

After the café closed, Fugler said the city mailed him a form for an exemption.

He filled it out and returned it but hasn’t received confirmation from the city that it has been accepted.

Ordinarily, the city counter-signs such exemptions and returns them to the business.

Meanwhile, the city and the café are scheduled to face each other in court Dec. 22.

City officials won’t comment on the case while it is before the court.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca