A group of Beach residents who want the city to take action against Tuggs Inc., the leaseholder who holds exclusive food and beverage rights to the Lakeshore eatery complex at Woodbine Park as well as other Beach park properties, hope that after meeting with the mayor last week, the situation will sway in their favour.

City council meets tomorrow, October 5, to discuss whether or not Tuggs Inc., the company which owns an exclusive 20-year lease to the city’s eastern beach properties, can assign a portion of its lease to Cara Operations Limited, the chain restaurant corporation and operator of Carter’s Landing, the restaurant which opened at the location earlier this summer.

Over the weekend, media reports citing family court documents state that George Foulidis, the owner of Tuggs Inc., claims to be under extreme financial duress and is asking for the reassignment as a way to come out of debt.

However, “Foulidis downplayed any link between his financial issues and desire to reassign part of the Ashbridge’s Bay lease,” writes the Toronto Star in its story about the divorce court documents.

Meanwhile, “Free the Beach”, an advocacy group formed last month in reaction to proposed changes to the lease, has been circulating a petition and releasing information on its website for the last several weeks. The group is eager to see how council handles the reassignment request at its meeting tomorrow.

They are trying to convince city officials to VOTE NO to what they refer to as the “lease switch”, alleging the tenant violated the lease and is not in a position to ask the city to reassign a portion of its lease to Cara.

“He’s not in a position to be asking for consent,” said lawyer and community advocate Martin Gladstone, who helped spearhead the “Free the Beach” group. “He didn’t get his consent before he handed over possession to Cara, which he was supposed to do [according to his lease].”

The group’s aim has been to put pressure on councillors to stop the deal, and in particular to pressure Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon to convince her colleagues the deal is bad for the community and should be discussed in an open forum.

Previous meetings have gone ‘in camera’ so that council could receive legal advice.

“I’m not happy with the deal, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it right for the Beach,” said McMahon, noting “we’re discussing someone’s lease. If you were talking about your lease to your apartment, it’s private and confidential. But I’m going to push and I’m going to push them harder at council to make as much of the debate as public as we can.”

Gladstone met with Mayor John Tory on September 29 in an effort to explain how the lease has affected the community and provide him with documentation.

“There were about eight people there in his office,” said Gladstone, including councillor McMahon. “He took it pretty seriously.”

The group shared their increasing frustration about the deal with the mayor, who also took the time to read through testimonials from Beach residents.

“He emailed me after the meeting to tell me how affected he was by them,” said Gladstone.

His group is also advocating for more transparency – and for council to take bold action.

“We keep hearing we’re stuck with it … that we really don’t have any options or leverage,” he said. “In fact we have enormous leverage to push back on this.”

The new deal, if approved, would see Cara take over the lease for the Lakeshore building at Woodbine Park which contains Carter’s Landing, Tim Hortons, and the Athens Bakery, as well as concessions at Kew Gardens and the Donald D. Summerville Pool.

Cara would then sublease back to Tuggs all portions of the buildings, except for the section containing Carter’s Landing. Foulidis is the franchise operator of the Tim Hortons.

As was the case when the lease was signed in 2010, Tuggs would continue to have exclusive food, beverage and sponsorship activity rights to events at Woodbine Beach, Ashbridges Bay, and Kew Gardens.

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