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2 landmark businesses look to move over high rents — just as the city plans to revive downtown

Two iconic downtown Windsor businesses, Phog Lounge and Craft Heads Brewing Company, are considering moving due to significant rent increases from their out-of-town landlord. This development comes as the city launches a $3.2 million downtown revival plan aimed at boosting foot traffic, attracting investors, and supporting local businesses.

Craft Heads, located at the corner of University Avenue and Pelissier Street, has rented three units for nearly a decade. Recently, their landlord proposed tripling their rent from $3,500 to over $10,500 per month, leading co-owner Jason Barsotta to consolidate their operations into one unit while planning to move the brewing equipment to Erie Street.

Phog Lounge, another beloved downtown spot, has also faced a rent increase. Owner Tom Lucier managed to negotiate down from a proposed 21% increase to 13%. Despite this, he anticipates further rent hikes and is preparing to open a second location on Erie Street as a contingency.

Both business owners argue that non-local landlords, who lack a connection to the community, are undermining local entrepreneurs by imposing unsustainable rent increases. Barsotta fears this could lead to a downtown dominated by chain stores, erasing its unique cultural fabric.

City councillor Renaldo Agostino acknowledges the challenges but notes that rent negotiations fall outside the city’s purview. He hopes the "Strengthen the Core" plan will offer some relief by enforcing property standards and possibly implementing a vacant storefront tax to encourage landlords to keep spaces occupied.

The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA) recognizes the problem but admits it has limited power to intervene. DWBIA chair Chris MacLeod suggests creating a business incubator program to provide long-term support for local businesses.

As Windsor moves forward with its downtown revitalization efforts, business owners like Barsotta and Lucier remain uncertain about their future, hoping for solutions that balance investment attraction with support for the businesses that form the heart of the community.



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