Tuggs Beachfront Monopoly: It’s Time to Take Our Beach Back

By: Valérie Maltais, Ward 37, Beaches – East York Toronto City Council Candidate

May 25, 2018

The Tuggs Inc. (Tuggs) deal struck with the City of Toronto (the City) in 1986 is a long, complex and disappointing saga. Tuggs has exclusive rights to the restaurants, concessions and sponsorships from Ashbridges Bay to Kew / Balmy Beach. 

In early 2011, shortly after a new council term began, a decision was made by Mary Margaret McMahon and city officials to “extend the olive branch” to Tuggs with the optimistic objective of working with the company to revitalize the area, rather than cancelling the deal.  The reason given for this unpopular decision was that hefty penalties would be incurred as a result of breaking the contract, although the magnitude of these penalties was never publicly disclosed. The contract details have not been made public either. The residents deserve to know what the cost and consequences are to breaking this abhorrent sole-sourced contract.

Between 2007 and 2027, Tuggs will pay the city, the bargain price of approximately $283,000 per year for this monopoly. This amounts to a total revenue for the City of Toronto of less than $5 million over the 20-year duration. To put that into perspective, this is approximately one third the price that a small restaurant owner will pay in rent on Queen Street. This agreement has not only cost the City millions in potential revenue loss, it has also led to an under-utilization of public space due to Tuggs rights of first refusal to concessions / sponsorships and has resulted in a lack of diversity among the available food options along the waterfront.

The dire condition in some of the areas (such as the Donald D. Summerville Pool) does not reflect what a proud and engaged community the Beaches – East York really is.  The council and the city act as though their hands are tied.  Based on some of the published articles, it appears that Tuggs may not have met their obligations in the contract which could put the city in a position to break the contract without financial penalty.  Regardless of whether or not Tuggs has honoured their end of the agreement, the penalties and legal fees for breaking the contract would intuitively be recuperated by getting fair market value for this prime space.  Not to mention the fact that Toronto and its residents would get their beach back for events, farmers markets, food trucks, and many other exciting activities! It is clear that this deal has a few beneficiaries while those who want to maximize the use our of space for community-oriented events are left with no viable options.  This is going to stop.

When I become elected to Toronto City Council, I PROMISE to the constituents of Ward 37 Beaches – East York that I will bring forward a motion to break the contract between the City of Toronto and Tuggs Inc.  I will ensure that every council member understands what they are voting on, and the history behind it, so that we do not get a repeat of previous council votes.  A new council term is an opportunity to put a stop to this type of opaque and inexplicable dealing.  Responsible and transparent governance is fundamental to our democracy.