Last September, The Metropolitain reported on merchants along Parc. Ave being hit with a number of fines under Montreal’s cleanliness bylaws.
At the time, property owner Bill Vasilios Karidogiannis complained that the street was in disrepair despite merchants pressuring the borough to contribute to its upkeep. So when the borough sent a team of workers to clean the streets a couple of weeks later, he was overjoyed.
What he didn’t realize was that he would have to foot the bill.
Soon after the cleaning blitz, 194 merchants on Parc Ave between Mont-Royal and Van Horne Avenues received bills for $17.77 from the borough charging them for the work done that day. Four of them attended November’s Plateau-Mont-Royal borough council meeting to ask why they were billed for work done by blue-collar workers on public property.
While none of the officials at the meeting could give them an answer, borough mayor Helen Fotopoulos noted $17 was a negligible amount and told them: “If you feel you’ve been unduly taxed, you can contest it.”
Steve Giannakakis, who’s on the Parc Ave. Merchants’ Association, left the meeting concerned about what he would tell merchants who asked him why they were billed.
“If the city doesn’t have the budget for it, they should say so,” he said. “I don’t want to be targeted, I don’t want to embarrass them either - I just want to know (why we’re being billed). There’s so many rules and responsibilities even they don’t know.”
Chris Karidogiannis was not as conciliatory.
“At what point do you take responsibility for your work?” he asked. “It’s shameful - they’re completely lost. It seems like the head doesn’t know what the tail is doing.”
He may have been partially right: since the meeting, the borough canceled all but 26 of the bills. According to borough spokesman Michel Tanguay, the Plateau could only bill those who had already received fines under the cleanliness bylaws.
So why not just keep fining the merchants who were not complying with the regulations?
“Because even after some of the merchants received fines, the cleanliness left something to be desired,” Tanguay explained. “So the borough did a blitz to clean all the tree bases.”
Since 2005, Montreal boroughs adopted bylaws requiring property owners to maintain the public property in front of their buildings up to the sidewalk. They’re now a uniform series of regulations across the city.
“People know they could get a fine if they didn’t clean and we were getting complaints from residents about cleanliness,” Tanguay said.
“It’s not the responsibility of the city. They were billed because we would not have had to do this if the citizen took care of public property.”
He added that it was the first time the borough went to these lengths but wouldn’t comment on the policy itself.
“I don’t judge the rules,” he said. “Once it’s adopted employees are there to assure it’s respected.”
Meanwhile, Nicolas Karambinieris is left wondering why he pays taxes - taxes that shot up 30 per cent in five years- if not to receive municipal services in return.
Cote des Neiges-NDG
“It is forbidden to sully pavement,” borough by-law
Côte des Neiges-NDG borough councillors passed some far-reaching cleanliness rules last week. Among them are the possible fining of tenants who rent homes located on messy properties, dog-owners who tie their pets to trees and possibly even those who toss cold coffee onto the street.
The new and improved cleanliness bylaw is aimed at ensuring tidiness reigns on private property in the borough as well as on public land. It was adopted unanimously by all five councillors with two – Marvin Rotrand and Warren Allmand – registering objections to particular aspects.
The pair said they are concerned that an “occupant” of an apartment building could, in theory, be fined if there is garbage left on the building’s front lawn. Previously, only the owner would be subjected to those penalties.
“The owner or the occupant of building must maintain the private land on which the building is situated, the establishment or the home that is occupied,” reads the new bylaw. That includes keeping the property – and the sidewalks or other public land adjacent to it – free of “unclean materials” (except on garbage days) and making sure weeds don’t grow over 20 cm in height.
“It’s very broad and could be abused,” said Rotrand, who nonetheless voted in favour of the cleanliness bylaw as a whole. “Tenants could be asked that they clean up a property if a landlord doesn’t. It’s a worrisome provision.”
Mayor Michael Applebaum, along with councillors Marcel Tremblay, Francine Senécal and Saulie Zajdel remained unworried, supporting the fining of tenants who inspectors deem to be insalubrious. Although acting borough director Pierre Jobin said inspectors will make decisions on a case-by-case basis, Rotrand feared that the administration is “going to have a fight with every tenants’ group in the borough.”
Other passages in the bylaw are equally nebulous: “It is forbidden to sully pavement,” reads one stand-alone line. As is “spilling a liquid on public domain, except for washing a property or a vehicle…”
It is not made clear in the document exactly what liquids the rule refers to, be it cold coffee or toxic waste, or under what circumstances a citizen could be fined. Special attention is also paid to “urban furniture” like park benches and picnic tables. No one is permitted to move them an inch and don’t even think about “gluing, nailing, stapling or otherwise attaching anything on the urban furniture” – that’s a fine too. One can not take a child for a dip in a public fountain, if the law is to be interpreted literally. And also worth noting: It is illegal to lock a bicycle or tie a dog’s leash around a tree in Côte des Neiges-NDG.
The borough has handed out roughly 160 fines for cleanliness violations so far this year, up from about 100 last year, according to Tremblay, who is the centre-city’s neat freak, in charge of the OpérationMontreal.net brigade. He said the “objective is to make Montreal cleaner,” and noted that other boroughs like Ville-Marie and the Plateau-Mont-Royal have more severe regulations.
“Taking a sledgehammer approach will not result in a cleaner borough,” Rotrand said. “This bylaw has to be used with wisdom.”
“To have nudity, it’s illegal in and of itself.”
The Princesses d’Hochelaga, a ‘serveuse sexy’ restaurant in Montreal’s east-end, has lost its liquor license for illegally exploiting eroticism.
There are only a few types of liquor licenses available in the province: restaurant liquor licenses like the one formerly held by Les Princesses, standard bar licenses, bar licenses that allow for shows - like dance, music, or film - and bar licenses that allow for erotic shows.
“It’s impossible to have a (nudity) option for a restaurant. To have nudity, it’s illegal in and of itself,” explained Rejean Theriault, spokesman for Quebec’s regie des alcools, course, et des jeux. “Society made these laws and legislators agreed that we could only accept nudity in certain bars.”
In fact, it was only in 1997 that Quebec’s liquor license laws distinguished between erotic and non-erotic shows, Theriault said. Prior to that, bar owners could only apply for a cabaret license that encompassed everything from folk performances to burlesque and strip shows.
Splitting the licenses allows residents to block strip clubs from opening near their homes or businesses, explained Theriault, because when someone applies for a liquor license, a notice is automatically placed in a local paper and residents have a better idea of what kind of shows the bar owners plan on hosting.
“If someone wants to start a bar with singers, people may not object. But it could be different if it was a (strip) bar),” he said.
Gaetan Thomas, co-owner of the area’s only ‘serveuse sexy’ establishment said he felt unfairly targeted by police. (Montreal police visited the restaurant nine times over three years). But Regie records show that police gave the owners repeated warnings for breaking the license agreements.
Police say they were repeatedly offered alcohol without food - illegal under a restaurant liquor license - or with a token $1 spaghetti. The waitresses were naked except for a see-through, six-inch miniskirt, and porn was shown on the restaurant’s TVs. For two months, the owners tried to comply with the morality laws by having the waitresses wear g-strings and cover their breasts, but business dropped by 25 per cent.
Clients only frequent his restaurant because the waitresses are naked, Thomas told the Regie.
The owners also made repeated request to the City for an exemption to the laws that would allow them to have nude waitresses but were was always refused.
Theriault noted that the morality laws could shift with time.
“It wasn’t long ago stores were closed on Sundays and we had fish on Fridays,” he said. “It’s all relative, it goes with social values.”
~ with files from Dan Delmar