Bag Lady open for business
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
Located at the junction between the Woodfield and Piccadilly neighbourhoods sits the Bag Lady. While unimposing from the street, the charming and eclectic décor that’s housed within the walls of the retro and vintage-style variety and takeout are only offset by the tasty (and healthy) baked goodies and prepared sandwiches that get passed to customers from behind a small counter.
For Jane Beattie, owner of the Bag Lady, the eatery is more of a community hub, rather than just a place to pick up a cup of java.
So, when the establishment was served with a notice from the city, saying it was functioning outside of what it’s allowed to do under its existing convenience or variety store zoning, Beattie was shocked.
“I didn’t really understand that I was doing anything wrong because everybody was happy, nobody was complaining, it just sort of evolved and people love it,” she said.
She added the Bag Lady was closed since Tuesday, but reopened Friday (Aug. 24).
“They’ve (the city) allowed us to open, business as usual, as long as we’re actively seeking to resolve the issue, which we are,” Beattie said.
When the Bag Lady first opened, it functioned as more of a traditional convenience store. But along with selling loaves of bread and canned food goods, Beattie explained she also wanted to offer take-out fresh food, like soup salad and sandwiches.
“At the beginning, we did have bread on the shelves, like a regular convenience store, but nobody was going for that,” she said. “There’s a lot of convenience stores in the area, so they more came for the social aspect of what we were offering and it sort of evolved into what it is today.”
The quaint eatery is now filled with mismatched tables and chairs and vintage prints and posters. Its shelves still look like a pantry with a display of canned food, but also with the addition of board games, cook books and rental DVDs.
Claims that the city was shutting down the Bag Lady spread like wildfire across Twitter and throughout the community. From there, a petition was formed to show the community’s support for the continued operation of the eatery.
“The city is not shutting us down — that’s not their intention,” Beattie said. “All the petition states is that we want the Bag Lady to continue as we know it.
“We don’t want it to become a full-blown restaurant, we don’t want to change anything, we don’t want it to get bigger, we just want to continue as we have been and that’s all we want.”
Orest Katolyk, manager of Licensing and Municipal Law Enforcement Services with the city, said the department began investigating the eatery after receiving a neighbourhood complaint on the use of the property. He explained all that’s needed is a zoning change to allow for a restaurant.
“The city, subject to some of the allegations we’ve received this week, did not shut down this business,” Katolyk said. “We simple issued them a notice to say their zoning needs to be revised and they’re in the process of doing that.”
From there and following a public zoning process, city council will make the final decision on the matter.
Beattie said she was surprised about how the community banded together after the bag lady was served the notice of contravention.
“I was blown away,” she said. “The support and the letters that rolled in, it was overwhelming.”
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