And the Winner Is — Danny Ellis!

During last week’s CBRM Council meeting, council approved a plan — brought forward by John Phalen, manager of economic development and major projects — to lease the community room in the Civic Centre for a restaurant.

The restaurateur was not named and Phalen’s Issue Paper was submitted too late to be included with the meeting agenda. It’s since been added:


I asked Phalen (via CBRM communications person Jillian Moore) who the lucky renter was but was told:

Due to privacy of the applicant, we would not release the name until the negotiations are agreeable, and the lease is ready to be presented to Council. At which point, it will be public.

If the applicant chooses to talk with media or the public before it goes to Council for approval, that is his/her choice.

That was last Friday and, as you no doubt know, since then the applicant has thrown his privacy to the four winds, choosing to reveal his identity, and his plans, to the Cape Breton Post:

Business Danny Ellis looks to open second restaurant on Sydney waterfront


Room to let

Yes, the same Danny Ellis who was handed the opportunity to open the Portside restaurant on municipally owned land on Sydney’s waterfront without the fuss of a call for proposals or a bidding process, is now in negotiations to renovate the community room in the Civic Centre (or “City Hall” as he and the mayor would have it) for another eatery.

That would also be the same Danny Ellis who was on the board of Business Cape Breton (BCB), the CBRM’s “economic development arm” until it ran out of funding this spring.

But this isn’t some sort of insider deal — no, the CBRM has been trying to rent the community room for two years now, according to Phalen, and had actually rented it as a gift shop for a few months in 2017.

I asked Phalen (again via Moore) how the space was advertised and it turns out the municipality really pulled out all the stops, in this age of lightning-speed communication and global inter-connectivity, opting to advertise some prime, waterfront real estate via:

… a sign in the window advertising the space ‘for lease’.

How that could have failed to bring a flood of applicants to Phalen’s door, I do not pretend to understand.


Fine bakery dining?

As for what kind of restaurant Ellis will open, well it’s still a work in progress, according what he (in a shocking breach of his own privacy) told the Post:

Ellis said he’s looking at a long-term lease to operate a restaurant year-round with a patio to open during the summer months.

It’s likely to be an eatery that appeals to office workers downtown, said Ellis, attracting a different clientele than Portside, which operated its first season from late June to early October adjacent to the tourist-driven cruise pavilion.

“They both sell food and alcohol but the one in city hall will be tailored toward a little finer dining and a menu that’s conducive to the (municipal) workers,” he said.

“I’m also taking into consideration the boardwalk and the walkers. I may do more of a coffee-bakery twist to the whole thing. …I haven’t fully decided yet.”

So there you have it, a “fine dining” establishment catering to municipal workers unless it’s a coffee shop/bakery appealing to people walking on the boardwalk. That tells us nothing. Ellis is actually better at protecting his privacy than I’d realized.

I think a fine-dining establishment, one too expensive for the average Cape Bretoner to patronize, is a brilliant idea for the Civic Centre, the seat of our democracy, a building we all own and pay to maintain. People can peer in the big windows when they go to pay their property taxes…




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