City's red tape holding up Edmonton restaurant openings: business owners

An insufficient hood fan is holding up the permit process and opening of a northeast Edmonton restaurant, according to its owner. (Carlyle Fisest/ CTV News Edmonton)

Two Alberta entrepreneurs say municipal red tape that's been delaying the openings of their Edmonton restaurants goes too far.

David Egan had hoped to open his barbeque restaurant in northeast Edmonton's Transit Hotel by the beginning of this year.

"We initially planned, and budgeted more importantly, for this to take three to four months," the Transit Smokehouse & BBQ co-owner told CTV News Edmonton.

That plan was last summer, with the grand opening once anticipated for Jan. 1. Since then, Egan says that grand opening keeps getting pushed back.

"There's no firm commitment, there's no firm date, there's no accountability."

The problem: no final permit from the city.

According to Egan, the city won't issue one until the business purchases a much more expensive ventilation hood for its smoker than the one it currently has, even though there's no open flame in the kitchen.

"It's silly that this is something that's held us up so bad," he said. "They were very easy to say what we weren't allowed to do, after we invested thousands of dollars."

Egan is waiting for his latest engineering drawings to be reviewed and stamped, but they could be rejected again.

If all goes to plan though, he says his barbeque restaurant could open within a week of approval.

'IF YOU DON'T HAVE A STAMP, WE'RE NOT TALKING TO YOU'

Another Edmonton restaurateur says he's facing similar issues.

Kyle Heier is in the process of opening two Pizzerias in Edmonton, but like Egan, has been asked to come up with costly stamped engineering drawings.

"That requirement alone can run you anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000," he told CTV News Edmonton. 

"Having to get a stamp for something they perceive as complex and I perceive as extremely simple is a bit mind blowing."

The would-be Edmonton locations are two of 10 Heier hopes to open in Alberta this year. He says it's gone smoothly in every municipality except Edmonton.

"In the City of Edmonton it's essentially a full stop," said Heier. "'If you don't have a (engineer's) stamp we're not talking to you.'"

In a written statement, a spokesperson for the City of Edmonton told CTV News the city knows navigating the permit application process can be challenging.

"Particularly in the case of changes to existing buildings or complicated projects, where there can be multiple steps for the owner and/or their contractors to take," the statement read in part.

"While we empathize with the financial impacts carrying costs can create for these businesses as they work through the permit process and prepare to open, it’s important that what is built is safe which includes ensuring that it meets regulatory and legislative requirements." 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset & Kyra Markov