Chickenburger will be accessible, owner says
On-street sandwich-board signs, aggressive canvassers for charitable organizations and difficulties accessing old buildings.
These are just some of the challenges facing wheelchair users visiting downtown Halifax shopping districts, Nancy Tissington, executive director of the Spring Garden Road Business Association, said Thursday.
“There are challenges relating to the topography and history of downtown that we grapple with as an association on a regular basis,” said Tissington.
The wheelchair access is a decades-old issue for many businesses operating in the Spring Garden Road area and other parts of the central business district where historic buildings are located, she said.
“There are about 220 retail operations and restaurants in Spring Garden Road area alone,” she said. “Among the operators of these businesses and the owners of the buildings, wheelchair access is an ongoing concern.”
Tissington was commenting on the downtown wheelchair accessibility debate that was sparked this week by advocate Warren Reed. Reed is using social media to promote his call for a boycott of the new Chickenburger location on Queen Street because it lacks a ramp leading to the interior portion of the establishment.
Chickenburger owner Mickey MacDonald said the business has been involved in talks with the city about appropriate wheelchair access since before the location opened in the spring.
“There are particular limitations about what we can do because of the age of the building,” said MacDonald. “A large fireplace presents wheelchair manoeuvrability challenges inside the building.”
He suggested people concerned about wheelchair access might want to come by the Queen Street location for a first-hand view of the situation before lambasting the business on social media.
“We’ve been working with HRM for months on this. We believe we’ve come up with a solution, but even that requires approval,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said wheelchair access to the interior of the renovated structure was not immediately viewed as a priority because about 80 per cent of the take-out’s business occurs at an exterior window, located by an outdoor seating area.
Halifax Regional Municipality issued Chickenburger a temporary business occupancy permit, pending resolution of the accessibility issue, said spokeswoman Shaune MacKinlay.
“The decision to grant the temporary permit was based on the age and location of the structure,” she said. “HRM is working with the owner to find an effective way to add wheelchair access to the interior of the building.”
Meanwhile, Tissington said the business association is continuing to grapple with an assortment of issues relating to wheelchair and pedestrian access along the busy Spring Garden commercial strip.
A proliferation of placards promoting businesses located on side-streets is a pressing problem for the association, due to safety concerns, she said.
“We’re really hoping we can come up with some sort of effective solution to this problem,” she said.
People jams at intersections, caused by workers apparently soliciting for charitable organizations, generate most complaints heard by the association, she said.
“Like most downtowns we have our share of regular panhandlers, but this charitable donation thing is different and the people involved are generally more vocal and more aggressive than panhandlers,” said Tissington.
She said she did not want to confuse the canvassers for charitable organizations, who operate daily on Spring Garden Road, with members of non-profit groups who occasionally raise funds.