The City of Regina has entered the restaurant business once again which is concerning to some downtown shops.
As a part of a $4.7-million renovation to the main floor of city hall, a new public cafeteria has since opened. The city couldn’t say how much of the budget was spent on the eatery because there wasn’t a construction-cost breakdown for each area. For outfitting purposes, such as sinks, freezers and cooking equipment cost around $270,000.
This isn’t the first time city hall has had a cafeteria, with the previous one being closed in advance of the renovations.
Copper Kettle General Manager Destiny Slobodian said she knows of local businesses that are nervous about how they will be affected.
“Our customer base is already stretched pretty thin,” she said. “There’s only so much business to go around.”
Slobodian said it feels like the city is competing with it’s own business that already pay taxes.
The cafeteria, which is run by Ontario-based Compass Group Canada, will remain open outside of normal city hall hours for public-engagement sessions, consultation meetings and open house meetings.
Compass Group Canada pays the city $25,000 annually along with a share of the profits.
For Slobodian, this is another obstacle her downtown business has to overcome.
“Not only do we have to deal with the parking tickets — the lack thereof parking — now we have to deal with the city putting out $5 cheeseburgers,” she said. “Who can compete with that?”
This isn’t the first time local businesses feel like the city doesn’t have their best interests at heart.
“With all the craft brewers, I’ve had quite a few of them come to talk to me as well that they weren’t given the option to sell local Saskatchewan products in a new stadium that we tax payers paid for.”
Slobodian said herself and a few other business owners are going to be sending a letter to the city to express their concerns about a lack of transparency over the construction of the cafeteria and how an out of province company is running it rather than a local owner.
“There’s so many unanswered questions when it comes to tax payers money.”
Slobodian said she understands it’s important city employees have options for food but believes it could have been handled a better way.
“We’re not coming out of anger, I’m not looking for, I’m not expecting any change I think going forward we need to learn a lesson from this.”
The City of Regina said there were always plans for the cafeteria in the renovations, which were a matter of public record.
As well the city points out the contract for the operation of the cafeteria was awarded, following a public tendering process, to Compass Group Canada.
Editor’s note: The article has been changed to reflect city hall has previously had a cafeteria and to include information provided by the city about the public tendering process.