Caesar Bar owners won’t be serving drinks along Collingwood’s waterfront this summer

1858 Caesar Bar owners wanted to serve alcoholic beverages at Collingwood's Millennium Park

A pilot project proposal from the owners of Collingwood’s Caesar Bar to serve alcohol from a food truck along Collingwood’s waterfront this summer has been shelved until 2022, at the earliest.

1858 Caesar Bar owners Vanessa and Steve Walker are perplexed their idea to open a food truck and serve alcoholic beverages at Collingwood’s Millennium Park didn’t receive approval.

Steve said town council originally loved the pilot project, but for some reason, it died at the committee level.

Caesar Bar owners baffled by decision after positive feedback

“We saw so much positivity around the idea, we just thought it was a no-brainer,” he said. “The mayor [Mayor Brain Saunderson] called it a ‘philosophical issue’ at one point, which we don’t really understand.”

Town staff noted in their report, that there has been some debate as to whether permitting this use, in the near term, would cause additional crowding in the park and potentially escalate the current enforcement and capacity issues in the park.

Caesar Bar owners won't be serving drinks along Collingwood's waterfront this summer
1858 Caesar bar owner Steve Walker

“It may place a layer of complexity and potential conflict to the natural use and enjoyment of these natural environments,” said Deputy Clerk Becky Dahl.

The Corporate and Community Services Committee decided against issuing alcohol permits in parks this year and instead, directed town staff to undertake a full review ahead of the 2022 permit season.

Steve called the decision “disheartening” and says the town’s own waterfront master plan from 2016 called for a brewpub at that same location.

Collingwood Council to revisit alcohol sales in city parks in 2022

Caesar Bar owners won't be serving drinks along Collingwood's waterfront this summer.

He wonders why Collingwood wouldn’t want to be the first in the area to take the lead on this kind of pilot project.

“Ultimately, I respect the decision and council, but we had the ball rolling with AGCO [the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario] and we’ve always done it right in the past,” he said.

Steve and Vanessa were the first to open an outdoor patio in the winter in Collingwood.

The Walkers were also behind the push to expand the patios downtown.

While they might have been the first to present this latest idea to council, they certainly aren’t the only ones.

Other local businesses also inquired with town staff about operating a food truck and serving alcohol in town parks.

The report by town staff also noted that a number of concerns and objections were received from members of the public to allowing the sale
and consumption of alcohol in municipal parks.

During normal times, 1858 Caesar Bar owners Steve and Vanessa Walker have a packed house at their downtown Collingwood location.

Steve wonders what ‘a number’ of complaints means.

“We are always going to be faced with a percentage of people that don’t like new ideas, but in this case, health experts have all agreed that being outdoors is good for us, so that’s what we were trying to do.”

The Walkers will now turn their attention to Sauble Beach.

The serial entrepreneurs are currently finalizing paperwork ahead of opening their second Caesar bar location.