Storied Rideau Street McDonald's will close

Graham and Gleiser say they're pleased to see the controversial McDonald's location will soon be closing.  (Joseph Tunney/CBC - image credit)
Graham and Gleiser say they're pleased to see the controversial McDonald's location will soon be closing. (Joseph Tunney/CBC - image credit)

The McDonald's at 99 Rideau St. — considered by some as an Ottawa institution — won't be gracing the ByWard Market much longer.

District Realty, which owns the building, confirmed to CBC that the franchisee has chosen not to renew the lease when it expires this summer. Its property manager expects it may close in April or May.

Since it opened in 1985, the storied downtown restaurant has been a place for people to get a cheap meal or converse with friends. It was popular with crowds frequenting nearby bars, those who ducked in to use the bathroom or take a shortcut between Rideau and George streets.

It has also drawn increasing criticism from the community, police and city hall in recent years for the numerous reports of crime in and around it.

Given all that, there are mixed reactions to its impending closure.

CBC spoke to some Ottawans who say it has become an eyesore and even a danger, especially in recent years.

"The past three, four years of COVID, it's just turned it into complete trash," said Hayley Gleiser.

"I was here about a week and a half ago," said Jack Graham, recounting his first time visiting the location. "And I just felt I was slipping, so I looked [at my shoe] and there's a needle."

Joseph Tunney/CBC
Joseph Tunney/CBC

Not everyone is happy to see the restaurant leave.

"They've been a great tenant. People don't appreciate how good of a community member McDonald's has been," said Peter Crosthwaite, the building's property manager.

"They're going to be missed by the market, especially for people looking for an affordable bite to eat."

Mike Evraire has often relied on McDonald's for an inexpensive meal in between the help he receives from some of the city's emergency shelters.

"It's devastating to some people," he said.

John Sen echoed those comments, calling the restaurant's forthcoming closure "a significant kind of deprivation" for people who are homeless or have lower incomes.

Joseph Tunney/CBC
Joseph Tunney/CBC

"Homeless people are sometimes outside the McDonald's and if they get a little bit of money, they'll go inside and grab a meal," he said.

He recalled many times when a friend would buy him a meal, or vice versa.

"It means more than just loss of food for individuals in Ottawa because, you know, people come here, they sit down, they relax, have a coffee. They read the newspaper, they talk about important things over a meal."

Then there's the raccoon

The McDonald's also became notorious — at least locally — after a viral video in the last decade showed someone producing a raccoon from their sweater in the midst of a fight inside the restaurant.

Following a 2019 letter from Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau to McDonald's Canada in 2019 in which he outlined a significant jump in calls for help at the location, the restaurant starting closing at 10 p.m.

"The vibration there has always been really bad," said passerby Tim Daniel.

"There's fights, all kinds of things like that going on."

On Thursday, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said he would often frequent the Rideau Street McDonald's on Friday nights as a teenager.

He wouldn't comment on its closure, but voiced support for the opening of a new police station in the market.

"I'm optimistic about the future of the ByWard Market, but I accept that we've got a lot of challenges," he said.