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New cafe brewing beside Guelph's smallest bar in The Ward

Double Rainbow Café is holding a soft opening Thursday, as development continues inside another area of 60 Ontario Street, soon to be home to Canada's smallest bar

Some of the final hurdles have been cleared for what could be Canada's smallest bar to open in Guelph.

But while the opening date for Standing Room Only has yet to be determined, something is brewing in another section of the building.

Double Rainbow Café is set for a soft opening Thursday at 60 Ontario St., out of the former garage area. This is ahead of a potential grand opening Sept. 10.

Kim England, the owner of the small coffee shop, said this has been a project a year and a half in the making.

"When I moved here, I saw this mechanics garage, which was still a mechanics garage, and I was like 'that would be a really lovely coffee shop,'" she told GuelphToday.

"Then (the building) was for sale, and then I ended up getting in, I got my foot in the door right from the beginning."

The hope is to provide an "inclusive, community, friendly, relaxed" vibe to patrons, selling coffee and baked goods to those who come by.

"We're just easing into it, basically," she said. "We're going to have a lot more product in here. I'm going to focus on local products."

She's working with a number of businesses in the venture, including Hamilton-based Detour Coffee, Fleetstreets, a new British baked goods shop opening soon in Downtown Guelph and others she is still in conversation with.

"I want to really support local food, (and) make a little bit here," she said.

A coffee shop was one of the three permitted uses on the property, passed by the city's committee of adjustment in May 2021. 

The other two uses were a convenience store and barber shop.

Last Thursday, the committee approved a motion to allow a licenced establishment and art gallery on the list of uses, with no off-street parking spaces.

The approval came with the condition that permanent planters are placed on the Ontario Street side within 30 days, to prevent through traffic from coming onto the property.

Standing Room Only has been in development for the last few months in The Ward, complete with a new paint job on the exterior of the building, going from the bright yellow when it was an auto shop, to primarily a dark blue.

Co-owner Doug Todd told GuelphToday in early June the cocktail-style bar will not be a place for patrons to "come and get hammered," and only 12 people will be allowed inside at one time.

It will not be allowed to sell alcohol past 12:01 a.m., and it's not allowed to have an outdoor patio.

Lalani Jennings Contemporary Art opened in a separate area of the building in June, an art gallery featuring work from Canadian talent and open four days a week.

Residents were allowed to submit letters ahead of the meeting.

Some had concerns, saying parking is already an issue in the neighbourhood, and too many variances have been requested for the building.

"I am not opposed to the repurposing of this lovely little corner and building," Lorraine Pagnan wrote to the Committee of Adjustment before its most recent decision. "But I believe the owner is asking for far too many uses on this site, some of which have more impact on the community than others."

However, the reaction was primarily positive, calling both the gallery and bar welcome additions to the area.

"It will be nice to have something to walk to and enjoy meeting up with neighbours," Terry Smith of Arthur Street wrote.

"I’ve heard that there is a big arts community in Guelph," said Anita Alvarez. "The gallery space is a very welcomed addition."

The trifecta on the triangular-shaped property doesn't bug John Findlay, a local resident biking in the area with his son Wednesday, and is looking forward to supporting the small businesses.

"It seems exciting," he said. "When I went to university in Guelph, like, 10 years ago, The Ward was a little rough around the edges, and now it seems like there's a new renaissance of things turning over.

"I like when Guelph has little regional pockets that make going on a bike ride or a walk worthwhile."

And for England, the coffee shop owner?

"I think it's a beautiful balance," she said.

"We got the art gallery, which is mainly (open) during the day. And once in a while for openings, they're opening a little bit later, not even late. And the bar, I'm not even sure our hours will hardly overlap.

"But I think bringing more into the area is definitely better for everyone."


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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay in 2011, and his decade-long career has taken him to a number of spots across Ontario in radio, digital and television broadcasting.
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