During this COVID pandemic, business owners have found it harder than ever to keep their businesses afloat. With heavy restrictions, the threat of an outbreak and people staying home, maintaining a decent livelihood has presented a big challenge. Unfortunately, COVID is not the only challenge some business owners are facing.
What happens when you are dealing with a landlord that may be prejudiced?
Consider the following scenario:
A husband and wife team lease a space for a restaurant that primarily serves the African/Black/Caribbean community. The landlord decided that they no longer wanted to lease the space to the tenants because they preferred a different clientele, more ‘like-minded’. The tenants had complied with everything they needed to do to renew the space, however the landlord made it difficult and ultimately refused the renew their lease.
The above scenario occurred in the recent case of Elias Restaurant v. Keele Sheppard Plaza Inc., 2020 ONSC 5457. The judge determined that the court cannot possibly address society’s many challenges with respect to racial justice, it equally cannot ignore them. The judge felt that ‘societal realities pertaining to Black businesspeople’ such as the tenants in this case, must be considered in the Court’s discretion. In paragraph 20 of the case it states:
“It is the Tenant’s view that the Landlord’s real point is not that families do not eat at restaurants or consume wine and beer with their meals, but rather that the “wrong” kind of families eat at this particular establishment. Tenant’s counsel submits that there is a barely veiled tone of racism in these observations made by and on behalf of the Landlord about a Black community restaurant. Indeed, the affidavits submitted by the Landlord and its agents, which describe loitering, drinking, and gambling, articulate what might be considered almost a caricature of racially derogatory themes.”
The judge went on to say they observed the landlord’s portrayal of the tenant’s business as fitting an established pattern in society. It is interesting to note that this landlord thought it was perfectly acceptable to behave in this manner without any repercussions.
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