If you follow the news, it seems restaurants close and open in this town faster than a kitchen swinging door.
So, making it to 10 years is quite a feat.
Petit Bill’s Bistro on Wellington Street West marked its first decade in business by raising between $3,000 and $4,000 on Sunday for the Max Keeping Fund for Kids at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
With live fiddle music playing, customers dined on a traditional Newfoundland menu that offered seafood chowder, cod tongues and salt cod cakes, rabbit stew, fish and brewis and Jiggs dinner. The public could also bid on silent auction items or win prizes through a balloon raffle.
The eatery will be raising money for charity again on Thursday, in benefit of Cornerstone Housing for Women.
A lot has happened in the local restaurant industry in the past 10 years, said Randy Fitzpatrick, co-owner of Petit Bill’s Bistro.
“It’s not been easy,” he said.
The challenges started with the economic slump of 2014-15, followed by stiff competition from all the new restaurants that opened at the redeveloped Lansdowne Park, he said. Then, there’s been the Phoenix pay system issues, resulting in public servants not getting paid properly.
The landscape along Wellington West is totally different from a decade ago. It's now bustling with restaurants and cafes. Back in 2007, Petit Bill’s Bistro was the ninth restaurant to open along its street, according to Fitzpatrick. “Now there are more than 40.
“It’s good and bad,” he remarked. “You need to have destinations. You can’t be standing alone; that’s not going to work. Somebody else has to be there to help draw people. But, when you get that much expansion, (the market) gets a bit saturated.”
Fitzpatrick says the bistro has done a good job, however, of evolving along with the neighbourhood. It prides itself on its family-friendly service.
He co-owns the restaurant with his brother, Terry. They named their business in honour of their dad, the late Bill Fitzpatrick, who was the patriarch of a close-knit family of seven children. He’d been orphaned at a young age and raised by the Catholic Church in Marystown, N.L. on the Burin Peninsula. He was dubbed Little Bill because there was already a Bill Fitzpatrick residing there.
The best part about running a restaurant, said Fitzpatrick, is the customers. He figures 70 per cent of them are regulars, from the neighbourhood. “They become our friends and family,” he added. “What’s wonderful is that when we see them out on the street, we stop and chat like old friends.”