Back in January or so Rudolpho decided he wanted to expand the Salsateria from its little retail/wholesale operation on Cork and move it into the old Aquarius Cafe space, which sits on the second floor above My Friends Kitchen, in a building that has access from both Carden and Wyndam streets.
Possessing one of the largest kitchens in downtown Guelph, the Aquarius space has been empty for awhile now, and the fact that the building has new owners made the idea of signing a lease for the space a lot more attractive than it would have been if the Salsateria had to sign with the old landlord, one of the most notorious and least-liked property owners in Guelph.
Rudolpho and his business partner Mike had all the city departments in to look at the space before they signed the lease and the city signed off on all the approvals. The lease was signed and about $90,000 in renovations were poured into the space. The idea was to create an actual club in Guelph, one that was built around a solid dining room and a well connected live music scene. As most downtowners know, Rebel Foods, the company that owns the Salsateria, has a long and central role in both music and food in this city.
About 27 days into the 30 day period set aside for objecting to the issuing of a liquor license, Bill Hulet, Stan Kovacs and Bruce Matheson each filed an objection.
Their concern was rooted in the out of control downtown night scene in Guelph. With the permit tagged with three objections, an official hearing was forced into motion, and so was a grass roots counter offensive from the city's musical community. In the meantime someone in the city realized that a bylaw was on the books that made it impossible for the city to grant a liquor license to a second floor establishment, specifically one that didn't already have a ground floor license.
Enter the Salsateria's lawyers to protest the city's duplicity.
The Downtown Board of Management has yet to officially speak on the matter but I have it on good report that most of the members think the club will be good for the downtown.
Apparently the three objectors, Hulet, Kovacs and Matheson have removed their objections, not doubt based on the realization that the club is something quite distinct in nature from the dance hall nonsense that is making the city the place of near-riotous activities night after night.
The city however is stuck in a potential lawsuit, since the lease was only signed after the the city departments had all given their approval to the project. Bob Bell the anti-license point man on council was button-holed at last weekend's eco-fest and couldn't believe how quickly the pro-Salsateria supporters were mustering, so I suspect he too has begun looking for a win-win situation.
Of far more concern to me than a club like the Salsateria, are the dance clubs, which should be moved up the university and out of the downtown, like the campus police deal with the violence and the petty crime. The Salsateria, as a genuine nightclub is precisely the kind of club we need downtown.
The other thing the city needs to do is to clean up the disgraceful crack cocaine activities that operate with impunity in the downtown, in some cases not much more than a hundred yards from city hall. The police know who the crack dealers are, and they know who is behind the crack dealers. We have crack being sold on Alice Street across from the Catholic Church and school. Clearly organized crime is behind the scene, and yet just as clearly, it cannot be Guelph's old Morgeti gangsters, since their place in the local Italian community would be utterly threatened if they were behind such activities near businesses and schools and churches. Which tells me that some other organized crime group is operating crack houses in Morgeti turf to spite the Calabrians.
Move the dance clubs up to the university, clean out the downtown crack businesses, and let clubs like Rudolpho's flourish.