Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit April 30, 2018 - 9:30 am

Proposed Iqaluit restaurant-bar goes back to square one

“Two and a half years later we’re back at first reading”

Matt Wilkins says a misunderstanding with the city over how many levels high his proposed new restaurant and lounge will be is costing him time and money. 
Matt Wilkins says a misunderstanding with the city over how many levels high his proposed new restaurant and lounge will be is costing him time and money. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

The City of Iqaluit is back at the beginning of a bylaw amendment over two years in the making that would allow Matt Wilkins of Big Racks Barbecue to build a new restaurant and bar in the city’s downtown core.

That’s because council members were under the impression that the local business owner was planning to add a second storey to his proposed new restaurant and lounge. But Wilkins said during a council meeting on April 24 that a two-storey building isn’t in his budget.

It’s an artist’s rendering that led to the confusion.

“I was informed then that I would never be able to develop or build anything on that lot other than what was shown in the drawing,” Wilkins said.

To cover himself for future development plans that could come years down the road, he had a new rendering done that included a second floor.

“I was told if I didn’t show it I would never be able to do it … which turns out was completely incorrect,” he said. “This was for absolutely nothing.”

Wilkins faulted staff turnover in the city’s planning and development department for leading to the confusion that is costing him time and money.

“We have had over $20,000 worth of drawings done, over 17 renderings directed by them.”

The most recent drawing cost about $2,500, he said.

An earlier proposal for the new restaurant made in October 2016 did include a second storey to the building, according to a memo provided to council by contract planning staff.

But in June 2017 that second storey was cut from the plan and the project amended to only rezone the parcel of residential lots for a one-storey building.

Should it pass, the bylaw will rezone five lots to allow for commercial development. Currently, there are three residential units and the existing Big Racks Barbecue on these lots. The buildings would be torn down.

In December, Wilkins submitted the new drawing, which showed two storeys, he said, but never heard any follow-up. When he did manage to get in touch with the department, there was a new staff member, and that person wasn’t familiar with his file.

“Two and a half years later we’re back at first reading with a drawing that we didn’t need to have in the first place … again, initiated by the planning and development department,” he said. “I’m just a little upset about the process and how everything has panned out and the timeline.”

His project investors “have all but backed out,” he said.

Coun. Jason Rochon called the mix-up a “reflection” of city and council decisions to make cutbacks in staffing and to rely on contract workers.

“From a local economic development standpoint, it’s not helping our business community, the choices that we’ve been making,” he said.

A public hearing was held in September for the first restaurant proposal made by Wilkins.

At that time, Lower Base residents were concerned about an increase in noise and mischief that a new licensed restaurant and bar might bring to their neighbourhood.

The residential area already includes the Iqaluit Legion building nearby.

After that hearing, the latest proposal to amend the zoning bylaw says that the entrance of the building must face towards the Capital Suites hotel and away from residential homes, and that any outdoor smoking and seating space must make noise reduction a priority.

“I think we should be treating this as urgent,” said Coun. Kuthula Matshazi, who noted that until recently the city has had stable staffing in its planning and development department.

A second public hearing is tentatively planned for May 8 and will be held in council chambers directly before the next regular meeting of council.

“We’ll try to work through this as best as possible,” said Deputy Mayor Romeyn Stevenson.

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(23) Comments:

#1. Posted by huh? on April 30, 2018

“Coun. Jason Rochon called the mix-up a “reflection” of city and council decisions to make cutbacks in staffing and to rely on contract workers.”

Where is the story on this council decision?

#2. Posted by Enough on April 30, 2018

I would NEVER start a business here. Between the astronomical cost and the affirmative action it would be a waste of time and an infuriating endeavor.

#3. Posted by on April 30, 2018

Blaming the city council for losing money? How about poor service and product being the cause. The food was amazing while the chef was here training the staff when they first opened. As per usual the high turnover happens, then the quality drops. At least the Nav is consistent, when they are not shut down for “repairs”.
Max is struggling with staff as most businesses do. It’s too bad they keep hiring low quality staff, their drivers have caused a few accidents.

#4. Posted by no pride on April 30, 2018

Put on some decent clothes man. You look like you just crawled out of bed and threw on whatever was on the floor.

#5. Posted by uniform on April 30, 2018

Maybe they need a better uniform. His hoody says Big racks.
Iqaluit is a growing City, this business wants to continue to grow. The City should let them
City also owes them an apology for the run around and waste of time.

#6. Posted by no rules (followed) in Nunavut on April 30, 2018

You want to expand your business? How about starting with cleaning your restaurant and following health and safety standards. Yucky!

#7. Posted by What #6 on April 30, 2018

I’m sitting in their dining room right now and it looks fine, same goes for the kitchen. If you you don’t like them that’s fine but don’t make things up to justify it. Own it. Or is it a “this one time…” sort of story?

#8. Posted by Skwaddy, Iqaluit. on April 30, 2018

I could not agree with you more, well said!
Mr. Wilkins I appreciate what you are trying to do for the community,
if you were drug dealer or a boot legger, or selling pop and chips for
three times the price people would love you, and be queuing up to
kiss your butt.
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

#9. Posted by 58008 on April 30, 2018

I never had any problems with their food, but I usually only get their special of the day or pizza.

#10. Posted by #7 no rules (followed) in Nunavut on April 30, 2018

Really? I suppose your and my idea of clean and meeting food safety are very different. Check out the washroom, floors, walls and storage of food in kitchen. If you can’t see the issues then it doesn’t matter. For me and my family we won’t eat there because of food and health safety issues. Perhaps they cleaned up their act since 9 days ago. Slip sliding on the floors of a restaurant is not a clean place I want to eat. Pee on the bathroom floors, dirty walls and doors, and the toilet was enough to turn my tummy. Just thinking of staff hand washing in that filth is disgusting.

#11. Posted by smelly me on April 30, 2018

How can you open a restaurant when it is so stinking in there, I can tell anyone that went there for lunch or supper, I can smell your restaurant. Imagine going there for lunch to have a few beers and than end up smelling even more of the fries as you sat there even longer. Your ribs are so bad, I haven’t been back as the fur on my parka was so strong of the food you serve, I am embarrass to go back. Sorry, but you need to wonder why it stinks so bad. I feel sorry for your restaurant, don’t mean to but I have to share too!

#12. Posted by smile on April 30, 2018

#11, the smell that you are talking about is the meat smoker. And if you go into any restaurant that specializes in smoked pork, it will have that smell. You either love it or you don’t.

#13. Posted by Dick Johnson on April 30, 2018

I haven’t eaten there for about a year now since I got sick after having supper there. Cleanliness is important for me, I hope it has improved but I can’t make myself go there to eat still.

#14. Posted by Jobi on April 30, 2018

There is nothing wrong with how this man is dressed. He creates employment in the city, pays his taxes and their food is good. The staff are very friendly & nice.

#15. Posted by CRA Man on May 01, 2018

Sorry, folks…you don’t know quality BBQ. I prefer my long-cook meats (chicken-ribs etc.) not to be so dry that I need urgent medical intervention to dislodge it from my gullet. I let it slide my first visit as I walked in just before closing at 8:30pm but same story the second (and last) time plus the ribs and mashed potatoes with gravy were essentially cold at 6:45pm? How hard is it to brush the ribs (evenly, both sides) with BBQ sauce then glaze them on grill for a minute to reheat them? 
Why no itemized-dated cash register receipts? Isn’t this a legal requirement in Nunavut? Must be nice not to have to “pay his taxes” on undeclared sales huh, Jobi???
No “date of preparation” or “best before date” on their sandwiches I see at DJs too.
Wake me up when the Bar-B-Barn opens a franchise…

P.S. The last time I paid $11.99 for a bowl of soup, it had Perigord truffles and Remi Martin Napoleon Cognac in it.

#16. Posted by Sad on May 01, 2018

#15 CRA Man, careful what you say.  Are you actually accusing Mr. Wilkins of not not paying his taxes? That’s a pretty serious thing to accuse someone of with absolutely no proof. For a guy that goes on and on about quality and freshness, etc, you sure like to recycle your jokes and comments. Get some new material. Your Remi Matin Cognac remarks are getting stale. You might as well have just included your name in the comments.  It’s a take out joint, and the food is tasty and the prices are on par with good takeout food in the Arctic.

#17. Posted by Point Missed on May 01, 2018

City of Iqaluit incompetence is the real story here.

#18. Posted by WTF City on May 02, 2018

How could a thing looking like the picture be taken seriously of a major project.  No wonder the backers have backed out.  City do not allow this establishment to continue as it has stank up the whole area and brought down standards for everyone.

#19. Posted by boris pasternak on May 02, 2018

#2, if you did, you wouldn’t hesitate to make money though by charging outrages prices eh? it always appears to me locals are fair targets who has no way of ordering food by mail or buying on line. speaking of disadvantage, who are you kidding?

#20. Posted by P. Casso on May 03, 2018

So some of us got brains, all can’t be half wits!!

#21. Posted by boris pasternak on May 03, 2018

#20 yeah the brainy ones live up here and the rest goes lol

#22. Posted by Sammi on May 07, 2018

As a resident of lower base I will be at the meeting. The big racks employee drunken/drugged antics are a weekly thing. Friday night their very intoxicated employees decided at 2 am it’s a good time to do donuts on a skidoo in the middle of the road…. this is the type of businesses we do not need in Iqaluit. 2 years of this every single weekend. Parties on the roof, drunk driving employees. Be responsible and hire people who aren’t as disrespectful to all citizens

#23. Posted by To the lower base resident on May 09, 2018

If you don’t k ow who or what the employees look like then you shouldn’t be jumping the gun on expectations that the employees are the ones going up or down which ever way on a skidoo , if they even own a skidoo , where I don’t think they do.

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