HWT, City councillors attended live music events, filing alleges

The city and the Hamilton Waterfront Trust are being sued for $15 Million in the latest chapter of the ongoing dispute between the upscale entertainment complex, Sarcoa and its landlord. In a statement of claim filed last month with the Superior Court of Justice, Sarcoa alleges “negligent misrepresentation” and breach of contract in actions taken by the city and the Waterfront Trust to ban live entertainment on the patio of the complex. The music ban came this past summer after three years of weekend entertainment operations that had raised the ire of north end residents in Hamilton and North Shore residents in Burlington.

The statement of claim charges that the Hamilton Waterfront Trust knew from the beginning and was clearly in agreement with Sarcoa’s plan, outlined in a 2011 Letter of Intent that stated in part, “the premises are to be used for a minimum of two styles of restaurants…with live entertainment both inside and on the exterior patio.”

The court filing says plans were submitted in advance to the Hamilton Waterfront Trust that clearly showed the planned patio stage complex and that the city and HWT arranged for a nearly $1 Million grant to supplement the Sarcoa investment of $4 Million in renovations to the former Discovery Centre. A 2012 vision statement presented at a meeting which took place at Sarcoa involving the HWT board including councillors Jackson and Farr, as well as lawyers for all sides; said in part”…the restaurant will be a destination for people searching for high quality dining, views and after dark live entertainment including bands and deejays.” The document says HWT board members approved the plan and “congratulated Sarcoa for its vision and business plan.” At the time of that meeting, Sarcoa says the patio stage was substantially complete and would have been visible to all.

The filing goes on to describe the gala opening of the complex on July 21, 2012 where live amplified music was being played and which was attended by “many representatives from HWT, Parks Canada and the city of Hamilton.” An article in the Hamilton Spectator around the time of the opening noted, “The expansive patio includes a stage for live music on top of a huge bar that seats 40…” Sarcoa will offer bottle and hors d’oeuvre service for cabanas rented for the night.” The document alleges that throughout the summer of 2013 Sarcoa staged publicly advertised events featuring live music which again, were “often attended by representatives of HWT and the City”.

It was also in the summer of 2013 that noise complaints by neighbours resulted in a raucous committee of adjustment hearing that was called to consider changes in the city’s noise bylaws. Sarcoa says the HWT had led it to believe that the complex would be exempt from city bylaws because it was situated on federal land, an impression that was repeated by City bylaw officers interviewed by media at that time after the noise became a public issue.

Finally in 2014 a formal charge was laid against Sarcoa and last July the city served Sarcoa with a formal notice to cease the live entertainment. Since complying with the order Sarcoa has reported a significant drop in business and has reduced staff. The lawsuit seeks $4 Million in compensation for the renovations Sarcoa made to the property, $10 Million for lost past and future business, and $1 Million in punitive damages. Sarcoa is also seeking a “permanent injunction restraining the defendants from preventing Sarcoa from providing live entertainment (which includes DJ services) both inside the complex and on the exterior patio”. All of the allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Written by: John Best

John Best has had a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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