City Life

Downtown Update

Martini bar or coffee chain: Locke St. continues to evolve. James North hums, and King East shows signs of life.

By Jason Leach
Published January 27, 2006

The Hamilton Spectator recently reported that the proposed Smokin' Joes Bar and Grill on Locke is actually a running joke with two business friends in the neighbourhood (yeah, we fell for it), so there won't be any Smokin Joes coming to Locke.

However, something will be coming to Lock in the old Tudor-style home at #215. The new owner, Ray Paquette of Ray's Place on Dundurn, wants to put in a Manhattan-style Martini bar with a health-conscious menu. Sounds great to me, and with the lawn out front just waiting to become a patio, this would be a great addition to Locke, especially for those of us who like to get out at night.

Hold on, though. Ray tells the Spectator that Starbucks came through the site yesterday and might want a location in that house. Now, I know that Ray is a smart guy and good businessman and will obviously do whatever makes the most sense to him, but boy, do I hope he doesn't take Starbucks up on their offer.

Talk about two polar opposite visions for the same space – a locally owned, health conscious martini bar or a mega-national firm with absolutely no conscience or remote concern for health. I wrote a piece last year suggesting that city hall develop a few 'no chain' zones in Hamilton.

One of the great things about places like Locke and Hess is the feeling of goodwill towards each other in the district. Ray Paquette wouldn't arrive on Locke hoping to drive the Bad Dog Café or Locke Street Bakery out of business. Starbucks would.

I've met dozens of folks who have moved to our city from Toronto in recent years in part to escape the constant domination of that city's neighbourhoods and business districts by massive chains like Starbucks and Second Cup.

This tug-of-war is repeated in major cities all over the continent as urban neighbourhoods work to revitalize, and do such a fine job of it that they attract the mega corporations that wouldn't so much as spit on the street just a few years earlier.

Here's to Ray Paquette's vision for a Manhattan-style bistro and late night spot on Locke. The alternative could be disastrous.

Also on Locke, the owners of the West Town Bar and Grill have bought the old music store at Locke and Chatham with plans for an expansion of the West Town, specifically the smoking room. A nice patio is planned here with ample space at the corner.

Patios, late night spots and more revitalization on Locke. Things are continuing to improve in downtown Hamilton.

Something is finally happening at the closed Mac's store on the corner of Main and Longwood. A tractor is tearing up the ashphalt and the property is fenced off. The site has been vacant for two years, is a high profile location and the building is routinely vandalized and tagged.

James North continues to hum along:

Elsewhere, new lofts are being built into the building at King and Jarvis that used to house the Greek Paradise restaurant. Either professional offices or another eatery is planned for the street level.

A new Caribbean restaurant has just opened on King at Wellington. It's called YaMan [read Jason's review]. The renovation that took place inside the building has turned out beautiful. Looks like a nice spot to relax with some good grub.

Something is happening to the old Pete and Marty's space next to Copps. I have no clue what, but construction equipment has arrived and the city has issued a 'one month' permit for them to occupy the curb lane of York St. during renovations. We'll let you know when we know.

James St. South continues its revitalization along the path of its Northern extension. Mike's World of Books appears ready to reopen on James South in the building that houses the Parker Pearce Gallery.

That's all for now.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Locke (registered) | Posted None at

If you're interested in more discussion on the tug-of-war Jason makes note of here between the chains and the independents, the movie 'Independent America' will be shown at 6:30pm Friday, Feb. 3, 2005. More info and links at: http://www.melroseunited.ca/ .

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By fastcars (registered) | Posted None at

I beg to differ on this issue. I'm an ex-pat Hamiltonian, and frankly I am encouraged to hear that Starbucks is kicking the tires, so-to-speak, on Locke--or anywhere in the core for that matter. Their arrival, no matter what you think of it, is a sign of health and vitality--and they can, and do co-exist well with other, independent businesses. If Starbucks drives traffic (pedestrian and vehicular) to the area, the rest of the businesses can only benefit. While noble, the "independent only" argument is anti-development--and in my eyes, anti-development is anti-Hamilton.

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By fastcars (registered) | Posted None at

Have to add, on the positive side, that's it's great to have somewhere to come and read insider knowledge on what's going on development-wise downtown. Terrific to hear that something's happening at the ex-Pete&Marty's--a building that had a great interior--but a hideous, utilitarian facade on York Blvd. It's a great spot with great potential in the entertainment and or bar/restaurant market--keep us up-to-date.

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By jason (registered) | Posted None at

hey fastcars...nice feedback. I agree with you about the fact that if major companies like Shoppers, Staples, Keg and Starbucks are actively looking downtown -all of them currently are - that is shows our core is improving. I guess I see streets like Main, York, and even James or John South as more suited to those types than Hess, Locke, King William or James North. Talk to ex-Torontonians and they'll tell you what happens - the large chains move onto a street that was made cool by the independents and galleries. Soon, rents go up, the cool eateries are forced to leave due to much tighter profit margins (they don't receive billions of dollars in government subsidies each year like McDonald's does) and the rest of the chains flock in to settle in 'another strip' like any other strip in North America. They have an unfair advantage due to the fact that North American governments take billions of taxpayer money and continue throwing it to these huge chains. The family businesses are pretty much on their own - good service, proper price points and high quality keep them alive. Once Starbucks shows up on Locke it will hurt Bad Dog and Locke Street Bakery, not help them. If the 'more traffic' arguement was true than we wouldn't see small businesses all over North America forced to close when Walmart shows up with all their 'traffic'. It's certainly an interesting discussion. I would welcome them into Jackson Square or other main streets, but certain areas need to retain their charm and viability for Hamilton businesses. As for Pete and Marty's I was VERY disappointed to go by there today and see that they've ripped up the beautiful floor. Don't know if you ever saw it, but it had wonderful tile mosaics. I'm not sure if they've saved it for reuse or tossed it...hopefully they'll bring it back out. Cheers Jason

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By Steeltown (registered) | Posted None at

Just a question, I don't know what Pete and Marty is. Can someone explain it or give the location. Thanx!

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By jason (registered) | Posted None at

to finish Ryan's thought - "...forcing the mom and pop shops of Main Street to scale back and eventually close down." Pete and Marty's was a sportsbar built next to Copps. Made sense at the time. Family fitness used it for a while before moving further inside Jackson Square. I just found out that Family Fitness is doing the reno for new lockers etc....

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By Trevor (registered) | Posted None at

Pete and Marty's was much more classier than a sports bar. It was a night club that had a dress code. The interior of the club was something you'd find in TO's or Montreal's club district. It closed in 1994 and has been vacant since. Family Fitness has their posters on the windows but they have never occupied the old Pete and Marty's. I've looked inside and you can still see the old tables and chairs, dance floor, the awesome "Tom Cruise Cocktail style bar" and the cool mosaiac serpent tile floor.

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By jason (registered) | Posted None at

that mosaic floor was amazing....I guess it's gone. Can't really see them putting it back into a locker/shower room.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted None at

The Corporate Brand versus Mom and Pop argument is, to me at least, the same as the Maple Leaf Foods argument, or ANY evaluation we conduct for new business investment in Hamilton. Corporations that wish to do business in a town must be evaluated on their record, and the impact they are likley to have on the neighbourhood and the towns residents. Maple Leaf had a dismal environmental record, and their turnover and working conditions were not favourable. Hence the kerfuffle. Same argument goes for Starbucks or anyone else - if you can bring positive things to the community then we welcome you, but if you skimp on salaries, bring excessive car traffic/environmental pollution etc, then this will work against you. Of course it would be nice to keep business local - that way the profits are typically invested back into the community - but if an outside owned Company can bring positive impacts to the town, then they should be encouraged to come. This is one of the facets of McHatties 'Triple Bottom Line' assessment (as I understand it) for the economic development team. History has shown us that Hamilton is used to accepting 'anything' at the expense of our quality of life. We need that triple bottom line assessment to kick in for ALL our new business assessment decisions. Cheers Ben

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By fastcars (registered) | Posted None at

I do remember the mosaic tile floor from Pete & Marty's-it was awesome. The serpent's "tail" actually started out by the hostess stand at the Jackson Square interior mall entrance and extended down into the restaurant and bar area. You might be interested to know that the same fate befell the Pete & Marty's in London--thrived for awhile and then closed abruptly. Although it would've been nice to see another restaurant/bar in the space--at least Family Fitness will occupy and utilize the space instead of it sitting there vacant. Moreover, it's a dead area for bar/restaurant/entertainment anyway. It's great to hear that the companies you mentioned are all actively looking at downtown Hamilton for space. Personally, I hope they all come, and bring their friends with them. One hopes that some of this revival is the direct result of the increasing residential population downtown, which is healthy, sustained growth that isn't dependent on offices and jobs moving in and out of the core. Just putting a couple of those chains you mentioned onto King or into Jackson Square would eat up a good healthy chunk of vacant space. I also understand the arguments about chains moving into neighborhoods and displacing local business--however there are examples, Westdale comes to mind, where "cool" local establishments have not been entirely crushed by chains like Second Cup. In the end, if the majors drive the locals out of a neighborhood, it was ultimately the locals inability to compete or differentiate themselves that led to their demise. In the end, if all Locke Steet is is a pretty version of Centennial Parkway, there are always other old neighborhoods (Barton, Kenilworth, Parkdale, Ottawa) to conquer with galleries and coffee houses.

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By fastcars (registered) | Posted None at

I have to add--in all seriousness, imagine a reborn Barton Street--what a powerhouse neighborhood that could be.

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