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Mabel’s Fabels bookstore facing closure due to rent hike, Toronto explores rent control for small businesses

Mable’s Fables bookstore among multiple small Toronto businesses facing closure
Mable’s Fables bookstore has been around for more than 30 years and now its owner says the business is facing a 70 per cent rent increase.

Mabel’s Fables bookstore, located on Mount Pleasant Road near Eglinton Ave E. for more than 30 years, may be reaching its final chapter — as the owner grapples with a 70 per cent rent hike that she says she can’t afford.

“Just a feeling of dread,” said the bookstore’s owner, Eleanore LeFave. “I think the intent is to push us out.”

Customers visiting the store on Friday said it’s more than just a book retailer. It’s become an institution in the community.

READ MORE: Walking into Toronto’s Mabel’s Fables like walking into a fairy tale

“It would be a real shame,” said long-time customer Amy Mitropoulos.

“A lot of my friends who have kids and a lot of my friends who have grandchildren come here — and it would be a real loss to the community.”

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“I felt almost sick because I’ve lived here almost all my life and this has been a part of it.”

Councillor for Toronto-St. Paul’s, Josh Matlow, said this is an issue faced by many small businesses across the city because the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assess properties at their “highest and best use.”

“The way these properties are being assessed is just out of wack with reality — with how they’re being used and how the neighborhoods and BIA (Business Improvement Area) would like to see them used,” said Matlow, who added a two-storey Main Street building could be taxed as a 40-storey condo.

“It’s really clear to us that these small businesses are struggling and are shutting down.”

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Crews & Tango, a popular drag bar in the Church-Wellesley Village, is also under threat of closure, according to a Facebook post by the local BIA.

The online group released a statement that said a real estate developer will put forward a proposal that will “likely be submitted to the City later this year” and that it was in the process of “undertaking preliminary consultations with community groups.”

The post also said Crews & Tangos, plus another “boutique bar”, would be replaced with a “mix of uses, including retail and residential.”

READ MORE: Torontonians fighting to keep popular bar in The Village from being replaced by condos

A petition has opened up on Change.org to push back against the proposed condo development.

“It is the fastest-growing petition that we’ve seen all across Canada this week,” said Jamie Biggar with Change.org Canada.

“We’re about to see 28,000 people sign it to stop Crews & Tangos from becoming a condo.”

Another popular Toronto establishment is also on the chopping block.

Hugh’s Room Live will close its doors for good by the end of the month after 20 years on Dundas Street West.

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The establishment said it’s being forced to close or move because of a proposed rent increase.

Coun. Matlow said the city is now looking at possibly implementing a cap on rent increases for small businesses.

READ MORE: Vancouver has the second highest rents in Canada, but the suburbs aren’t far behind: report

“City staff is already working on a retail strategy that should be coming back to comity and council in the next few weeks, most likely in April,” said Matlow.

“So there will be a number of options that are provided.”

Matlow said he would possibly like to see a “reasonable inflationary guideline level” that is similar to residential rental.