By Wojtek Dabrowski
As many as six Ryerson students working at the oldest Hard Rock Cafe in North America could lose their jobs when the restaurant chain undergoes a $5-million expansion as part of the Yonge and Dundas redevelopment.
The theme restaurant plans to shut down in early June to begin an expansion that will see it take up most of its historic building, including the property currently being leased by a candy shop, a currency exchange and a small performance theatre.
The owners of the building, which was built in 1918, are also planning to install a giant television screen that will broadcast 24-hours-a-day.
The expansion means about 70 workers, including about half dozen Ryerson students, will be laid off until October when the restaurant hopes to reopen. Even then, former employees will have to reapply to get their old jobs back.
“I think in the long run it’s very exciting, but right now we’re all in shock because we all just lost our jobs,” said Susan Murphy, a fourth-year theatre technical production tudent and hostess at the restaurant. She said restaurant employees learned of the planned $5-million expansion at a staff meeting March 28.
“They started telling us about the palace that they’re building,” she said. The renovated restaurant will have two floors, a nightclub-style dance floor, a lounge and an expanded dining room.
Hard Rock Cafe International Inc. is currently negotiating details of the plan with the owners of building, Milyin Corp.
“We’re working hard toward it,” said Robert Cheung, one of the owners of Milyin Corp. “If everything goes smoothly, it takes three minutes and a handshake.”
Spokesperson for Hard Rock Cafe International could not be connected Tuesday.
If the expansion goes as planned, Toronto Currency Exchange and Planet Sweet will be forced to relocate so the Hard Rock Cafe can take over. It is unclear whether the Top of the Square, a performance theatre, will be allowed to stay.
Cheung said he plans to give the tenants as much notice as possible before they need to leave. “Although these tenants have become friends over the years, this is a commercial transaction.”
Milyin Corp. has also hired advertiser Skye Media to erect seven billboards–including a 10-metre-long video screen—on top of the restaurant at an estimated cost of $2.5-million.
City councillor Kyle Rae said the advertising will go up on the condition that the protected historical building is cleaned up. “It’s a heritage building, and there’s all sorts of lousy signs on the building,” Rae said, citing the main Hard Rock Cafe sign on the building’s face. “It’s not modern signage.”
The city’s preservation board has given its approval for the billboards, but some details of the plan still need to be worked out, said Skye Media president Danny Starnino.
CityTV has expressed interest for the rights to air a 24-hour feed on the video screen, but nothing has been finalized, a spokesperson for the television station said.
$2,500 Mass Exodus theatre fee put off for further consideration
By Eyeopener Staff
After weeks of bickering and backpedalling, it looks like the month-long saga that was this year’s Mass Exodus fashion show is set to end with the university covering the rental cost of the Ryerson Theatre.
Fashion chair Mary McCrae says Ryerson v.p. Academic Erroll Aspevig told her over the phone that this year the rental fee would be paid out of his office’s budget. As of next year, Aspevig has made no promises. McCrae says the discussions with administration about any future rental fees will start sometime in May.
We’ve got it resolved for now,” says McCrae. “We’ll be dealing with the future in the near future.”
Last month, show organizers found out they would be charged $2,500 to use Ryerson’s theatre for the show, which is a requirement for students in the fashion program. Mass Exodus have been using the space at no cost for the past 10 years. When they were told a $2,500 fee might come out of an already tight budget, organizers feared they would have to make cuts to the production.
On March 15, Linda Grayson, Ryerson’s v.p. Administration and student affairs, met with the organizers to tell them the fee was never meant to be paid by students—it was meant to be covered by the school of fashion.
But McCrae argued that because the show is a class project, the fee shouldn’t have been imposed in the first place. Aspevig intervened on behalf of fashion after hearing students’ concerns at an academic council meeting in early march.