Permit mix-up has NDG café owners worried they'll have to close
Young Seo Yu and her family were looking for a place to fulfil their dream of opening a Korean restaurant in Montreal.
They became friends with the owner of Cafe Maté Latte on Sherbrooke Street in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and decided to take over the business and add Korean dishes to the existing menu.
But their goal was always to operate as a restaurant. This winter, they applied for a restaurant permit under their names, thinking they would just be updating the information on file.
Instead, they got an unwelcome surprise — the previous business was running under a grocery permit.
The difference is in the number of tables. A grocery store can't have more than six tables and 12 chairs.
Yu says they had no idea what they were getting into.
"We really trusted the former owner. And also there was a realtor that we hired, but obviously he did not investigate enough to let us know about this problem."
The borough sent the family a letter saying it cannot grant them a restaurant permit because it's too close to another restaurant, which is against zoning rules.
City Coun. Peter McQueen says it appears the previous owner didn't get the right permit when it expanded the business a few years ago
He said the borough doesn't want to penalize a new business owner due to what he called a "glitch," and is hoping the two sides can work out the zoning issues.
"I think our council would be favourable to vote an exception, if that's what we have to do."
Yu's mother, Jaeran Lee, says she spent her life savings on the business, around $160,000.
For now, the family has applied for a grocery store permit so they can stay open. It cost $8,000 to renew.
Yu said it's been a stressful few months, but they are trying to keep their business going in case the issues are resolved and they can stay put.
If they can't, they will shut down and find somewhere else to run their dream business.