A Bank, A Spark, and the Fight to Keep Uptown Ottawa (Tinder) Dry

Sparks Street at Bank, looking east. The Rochester-Belmont at foreground right. Undated, but likely 1938. Source: Public Works / LAC Accession 1970-140 NPC, Box RV1-036, CP 677.
Sparks Street at Bank, looking east. The Rochester-Belmont at foreground right. Undated, but likely 1938. Source: Public Works / LAC Accession 1970-140 NPC, Box RV1-036, CP 677.

When I last wrote of Stephens Block on the southwest corner of Bank and Sparks streets, I left off with the purchase of The Belmont Pharmacy, Tea Room, and Rainbow Tea Room by local restauranteur Peter Karson. In this instalment (the third and final), I focus on the various fires, both literal and figurative, which beset Stephens Block and Karson’s Restaurant in particular. It was only after having being forged in these fires that the resulting Embassy Restaurant was able to stand as the well-loved establishment that it was. At least until the need for federal office space proved too potent a foe.

Corner of Sparks and Bank, c. 1915. Image: Wilson, N.D. / LAC Accession 1968-88 NPC, Box T1135, PA-044701.
Corner of Sparks and Bank, c. 1915. Image: N.D. Wilson / LAC Accession 1968-88 NPC, Box T1135, PA-044701.

Peter Karson and his Karson Ltd. did not retain ownership of the restaurant and tea rooms at Bank and Sparks for long. The Journal reported just six months after Karson’s grand opening that the restaurant and tea room had been sold to Montreal restauranteurs Charles Peters and J. (or T.) Deskas for $50,000.1”Montreal Firm Buys Karson Restaurant,” Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1934, p. 15; “Make Important Business Change,” Ottawa Journal, June 20, 1934, p. 24. The sale of the restaurant did not result in many changes to the business: a Karson remained in management (William, Peter’s brother), and neither the restaurant nor the tea rooms received a name change. Indeed, the sale might have been motivated by Karson’s plan to purchase the Belle Claire property around the corner on Queen Street.2”Belle Claire Sold In $40,000 Deal,” Ottawa Journal, September 10, 1935, p. 20.

Queen Street, looking east at Bank. Peter Karson's ambitions for the block extended around the corner to the Belle Claire Hotel. Image: Public Works / LAC Accession 1979-140 NPC Box RV1-036 Series CP-683.
Queen Street, looking east at Bank. Peter Karson’s ambitions for the block extended around the corner to the Belle Claire Hotel. Image: Public Works / LAC Accession 1979-140 NPC Box RV1-036 Series CP-683.

Business hummed along well following the purchase: the restaurant had steady custom, it kept out of the news, and perhaps most importantly, hadn’t experienced any fires. That was, at least, until the Winter of 1938. In the early morning of February 21, a fire broke out in the basement below Ritchie’s Cigar Store, immediately adjacent to Karson’s Koffee Shop  and three doors down from the Karson’s Restaurant. The worst of the damage was experienced by Ritchie’s (which lost its entire stock) and F.J. Courtney Furniture, whose losses were estimated at $12,000. For it’s own part, Karson’s experienced minor water damage and the inconvenience of having the business day interrupted by firefighters.3”Uptown Stores Suffer Serious Damage,” Ottawa Citizen, February 21, 1938, p. 5; “Bank Street Shops Damaged By Fire,” Ottawa Journal, February 21, 1938, p. 11.

Once the Second World War had become all too real, the enforcement of wartime labour and currency regulations and the already-established industrial legislation thrust Karson’s into the public eye in a big way. In May 1940, William Karson was brought up on charges for employing a woman after 11pm, a violation of the Factory, Shop, and Office Building Act. In a example of being too clever by half, Karson’s Defence Counsel, J.A. Burrows, argued that the woman in question was not employed past eleven, because she was not employed past eleven Standard Time. The Act did not specify, so it seemed to be an argument that may work.4”Does Daylight Time Apply to Employment?” Ottawa Journal, May 17, 1940, p. 12. Magistrate O’Connor was, to say the least, unmoved by the argument, and fined Karson $10, plus $2 costs.5”Fined in Court,” Ottawa Journal, May 25, 1940, p. 12. The fine did not seem to be much of a deterrent, however, as Karson was found to have employed women past 11pm once again in the Fall and was once again fined, this time $15.6”Fined in Court,” Ottawa Journal, October 7, 1940, p. 12.

Karson's Restaurant, at the corner, was located a quick walk from the Foreign Exchange Control Board. Source: Charles E. Goad. Fire Atlas of Ottawa, 1925 (1948 revision), Plate 108.
Karson’s Restaurant, at the corner, was located a quick walk from the Foreign Exchange Control Board. Source: Charles E. Goad. Fire Atlas of Ottawa, 1925 (1948 revision), Plate 108.

Employing a woman past the ungodly hour of 11pm was not the only offence Karson’s name appeared in the papers for. On May 26, 1941, the Journal reported that Karson had been charged with a violation of the Foreign Exchange Control Order under the War Measures Act for failing to disclose to the Foreign Exchange Control Board that he had sold $40 US dollars. Karson’s employee John Rose was charged similarly.7”Charged With Failing Report Money Sale,” Ottawa Journal, May 26, 1941, p. 12. Karson and Rose had the dubious distinction of being the first in Ottawa charged and convicted of the offence. Magistrate Strike was unpersuaded with the argument that they were unaware that it was in contravention of the Order. Karson was fined a total of $60 on the charges of acquiring the currency without reporting it and subsequently selling it and Rose was fined $10, as Strike found his offence less serious. The Journal explained that Rose had purchased the $40US from Karson in order to repay a loan he had taken out in the US. As was the case with his violations of the Factory, Shop, and Office Building Act, this was not the first time Karson had found himself on the wrong side of the law.8”Ottawa Men Fined In The First Case Affecting Exchange,” Ottawa Journal, May 28, 1941, p. 12. Perhaps amusing only to myself, the offices of the Foreign Exchange Control Board were located around the corner from Karson’s.

Karson stressed that the refreshed dining experience was located at the very centre of the "Capital's war industry offices" and catered to them at all times. Source: Ottawa Journal, October 9, 1941, p. 19.
Karson stressed that the refreshed dining experience was located at the very centre of the “Capital’s war industry offices” and catered to them at all times. Source: Ottawa Journal, October 9, 1941, p. 19.

It seems that business was strong enough during the early 1940s that despite his frequent appearances in front of the local Magistrate, Karson was able to oversee a substantial renovation of the restaurant. The Citizen reported in February 1941 that Karson’s would shut down temporarily in order to undertake a “complete reconditioning” that was expected to cost $30,000. Karson was quoted as saying that everything would be “streamlined”.9”Much Building Bringing Many Changes Here,” Ottawa Citizen, February 3, 1941, pp. 1, 12. After some delay, the fully renovated and redesigned Karson’s Restaurant was opened to the public on October 10. The space, designed by Richards & Abra, boasted a horseshoe-shaped snack bar, an ultra-modern kitchen, and a thoroughly modernized dining room of “honey-colored primavera wood, beige leather, pale green Craftex, gleaming modernistic mirrors and soft indirect lighting.”10Ottawa Journal, October 9, 1941, p. 19. Along with the renovated restaurant, Karson’s had advertisements run in the local papers on a regular basis.

There were hundreds of advertisements run for Karson's in the Journal and Citizen. I happen to like this one. Source: Ottawa Journal, November 10, 1943, p. 2.
There were hundreds of advertisements run for Karson’s in the Journal and Citizen. I happen to like this one. Source: Ottawa Journal, November 10, 1943, p. 2.

At the heart of Ottawa’s “war industry offices,” Karson’s was doing a brisk trade and had hit a real stride through the 1940s. What also kept up a good clip were Karson’s appearances in court. Some of the charges were familiar, with him being found guilty once again for employing women past 11pm. As the third offence, Magistrate Sauve fined Karson $50 and costs.11”Fined in Court,” Ottawa Journal, March 16, 1944, p. 7. That summer, Karson also found himself up on charges for exceeding the price ceiling on a full course dinner of haddock, cheese omelettes, and roast leg of pork. The Journal reported the Karson’s wife, Constance, had taken over management of the restaurant for the year while he was ill. When setting the price of the dinner, she made use of an old menu from another one of his restaurants. The pricing decision was, in other words, unintentional.12”Ottawa Restaurant Charged With Breach Of Price Ceiling,” Ottawa Journal, August 11, 1944, p. 12. Magistrate Strike, who heard the case, was satisfied that it was indeed unintentional and assessed a fine of $20 plus costs.13”Ottawa Restaurant Fined $20 on Charge,” Ottawa Journal, August 12, 1944, p. 15.

I have not yet located a quality picture of the block facing west. So here's the east side taken on September 24, 1956. Source: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA-40696.
I have not yet located a quality picture of the block facing west. So here’s the east side taken on September 24, 1956. Source: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA-40696.

By 1946, Karson was no longer involved with the business. His daughter Eva had died in 194514”Miss Eva Karson Dies In Ottawa,” Ottawa Journal, April 11, 1945, p. 4; “Last Respects Paid To Miss Eva Karson,” Ottawa Journal, April 16, 1945, p. 19. and is seems that his illness may have been more serious that it seemed. He was no longer reported as being manager, owner, or otherwise President of Karson’s Ltd.: that distinction belonged to Louis Schwartz, an RCAF veteran15”Louis Schwartz Joins Air Force,” Ottawa Journal, January 15, 1943, p. 12. who took over the business upon his return.16I don’t have a specific date, though it does seem that the Karson brothers both cashed out around the same time. The Karson’s outlet on Rideau street was sold to F.W. Woolworth for $120,000 in January 1945. Woolworth (the site of Chapters today) planned a considerable expansion. See “Property Worth $120,000 Sold To F.W. Woolworth Company,” Ottawa Journal, February 6, 1945, p. 5. No such transaction report could have existed for the Bank and Sparks location, as the space was only leased from Sovereign Realty. Schwartz received a real welcome to restaurant ownership when a “hooded and armed bandit” robbed him in the upstairs office in the Spring of 1946. The young thief made off with $700, the night’s receipts.17”Hooded Bandit Robs Restaurant Owner At Gunpoint,” Ottawa Journal, April 13, 1946, p. 22.

During the 1940s and 1950s, this building on Somerset West served as the Oddfellows' Hall. The Oddfellows' Hall where protracted battles over liquor licensing took place. Image: July 2016.
During the 1940s and 1950s, this building on Somerset West served as the Oddfellows’ Hall. The Oddfellows’ Hall where protracted battles over liquor licensing took place. Image: July 2016.

As difficult as it was to deal with being robbed, Schwartz’ found himself up against a much more formidable opponent that winter: the dry advocate, the temperance enthusiast, and even the occasional outright prohibitionist. Although Ontario had ended Prohibition in 1927, beer by the glass (ie. in a tavern) did not return until 1934 during the premiership of Mitch Hepburn. Although a number demanded it, beer by the glass was not allowed in restaurants immediately. Ontario was never entirely comfortable with the concession and made attempts to keep the regime restrictive. That demand had skyrocketed during the War, causing a shortage, did not help matters. Moreover, the poor design of the post-Proibition beverage room policies (grafted on to hotel regulation) meant that there was no such thing as “normal” operation. Faced with immense pressure and demand and a poor existing policy, the government of George Drew introduced a new regime that expanded greatly the number of liquor license options available to Ontario’s cities with populations above 50,000. Ottawa was, of course, one of them.18The history of Ontario’s post-prohibition liquor policy has been well-covered numerous sources. See Dan Malleck. “The Bureaucratization of Moral Regulation: The LCBO and (not-so) Standard Hotel Licensing in Niagara, 1927-1944, Social History 38 (May 2005): 59-77; Dan Malleck. “Leisure, Liquor and Control: Negotiating recreation in the beverage rooms of post-prohibition Ontario, 1927-1939.” Annals of Leisure Research 11 (2008): 368-385; Eric Single and Barry Eakins. “The Politics of Accommodation: Alcohol Policy in Ontario in the Postwar Era,” Contemporary Drug Problems 10 (Spring 1981): 23-35; Sharon Jaeger. From Control to Customer Service: Government Control of Liquor in Ontario, 1927-1972 (PhD. diss., University of Waterloo, 2000).

With the new regime, restaurants across the province sprouted what became ubiquitous letters: LLBO. This example is located in Hamilton. Image: Kenneth Moyle (CC BY-NC 2.)
With the new regime, restaurants across the province sprouted what became ubiquitous letters: LLBO. This example is located in Hamilton. Image: Kenneth Moyle “Golden” (CC BY-NC 2.)

In February 1947, under the new Liquor License Act, Louis Schwartz applied for a license to serve beer and wine with the meals served at Karson’s Restaurant.19Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1946, p. 25. Schwartz was part of what must have seemed like a rush, as the first three applications printed in the papers were for the Belle Claire around the corner on Queen, The Windsor Hotel on Metcalfe, and the Golden Grill, at 303 Bank.20Ottawa Journal, February 5, 1947, p. 26. Under the law, notices reproduced in the papers invited any resident to object to the application at the appointed meeting.21Ibid.

Twelve of the first twenty applications for licenses under the new regime were approved. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 28, 1947, p. 1.
Twelve of the first twenty applications for licenses under the new regime were approved. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 28, 1947, p. 1.

Like most of the province, Ottawa was a thirsty city. Although it is true that Hull had long provided a convenient outlet, it seems that Ottawa’s restauranteurs, hoteliers, and lounge owners were more than happy to get back on a competitive footing. In the Spring of 1947, 29 license applications had been submitted. 12 were straight grants, there was one refusal, and the remainder were held up under additional assessment. Richard Jackson of the Journal drew comparison between Ottawa’s 12 approvals and Toronto’s number, which was north of 100.22The 12 first approvals were The Albion Hotel, Alexandra Hotel, Bytown Inn, Canada Hotel, Chateau Laurier, Lord Elgin Hotel, Plaza Hotel, Windsor Hotel, Laurentian Club, Ottawa Hunt Club, Rideau Club, and La  Touraine (in the Roxborough Apartments). The one flat refusal was Copacabana Club at 68 Slater. The Belle Claire Hotel, Belmont Hotel, LaSalle Hotel, St. Charles Hotel, Grads Hotel, Victoria Hotel, and Rideau Lawn Tennis Club were considered “held up” or “under consideration.” Being granted a license was just one step: premises had to be made compliant and not all of the successful applicants had even begun work. No decision had yet been rendered at the time for those who applied for the dining lounge licenses. These included The Golden Grill (303 Bank), Bar-B-Q Chicken Palace (374 Bank), Powers Grill (33 Metcalfe), Karson’s (60 Bank), Cozy Corner (Preston and Carling), Dayton’s (248 Bank), Cavendish (184 Sparks), Tea Garden (145 Sparks), Sorento’s (176 Bank), Imbro Bros. (415 Rideau), Chippewa Lodge (Barry’s Bay). Schwartz would have to wait longer to pour pilsner for Karson’s patrons: along with most other dining lounge license applicants, his was left with “no decision”.23See Richard Jackson. “Approve 12 Cocktail Bars For Ottawa,” Ottawa Journal, March 28, 1947, pp. 1, 16.

Flames. Again. Source: Ottawa Journal, June 17, 1947, p. 1.
Flames. Again. Source: Ottawa Journal, June 17, 1947, p. 1.

Flames are never too far from this story, and flames appeared once more. Unlike the last fire, in 1938, this one started in Karson’s kitchen and moved upwards through the vents and walls of the 60 year old building. The fire caused an estimated $15,000 in damage in total. Kitchen staff made attempts to fight the blaze before it spread, but the extinguishers available were unable to prevent it from getting into the walls.24”100 Ottawa Students Escape in Fire: Many Use Ladders To Get Out Of Burning Building,” Ottawa Journal, June 17, 1947, pp. 1, 12. Less than six months after that fire, another of unknown source broke out, causing damage to the ceiling in the restaurant portion and smoke and water damage in the dining room.25”Fire Drives Diners From Restaurant,” Ottawa Journal, November 6, 1947, p. 32.

Under New Management. Source: Ottawa Journal, February 2, 1948, p. 21.
Under New Management. Source: Ottawa Journal, February 2, 1948, p. 21.

With that, Schwartz was out. His replacement, as it would turn out, was Spero Andrews. Through the 1940s, Andrews had owned and operated Powers Restaurant with John Rose at 90 Sparks/33 Metcalfe.26Rose, you’ll remember, was fined $10 for exchanging American currency without registration during the War. The pair were made familiar with wartime price controls in 1944, being assessed a $50 fine for selling over the ceiling. See “Ottawa Restaurant Fined $50,” Ottawa Journal, October 13, 1944, p. 1. That year, with the reopening of Karson’s after the fire, and under the name of Sparks Street Operators, Andrews applied for a dining lounge license for the premises at 60 Bank.27”Oppose Liquor License Here,” Ottawa Citizen, February 13, 1948, p. 1.

Applications for liquor licenses tended to be opposed by formal temperance groups, like the Ontario Temperance Federation, and by the United Church, whose most vocal tended to advocate for full prohibition. In the case of the Spring 1948 application, both groups made their presence known at the meeting held at the Oddfellows’ Hall. In the face of such opposition, Judge J.W. Robb, the Board Chair, reserved his decision on the applications presented.28Ibid. Five of the six applications, including Andrews’ (which the Journal identified as the Valley Tavern), were rejected “for reasons not made public.”29”Tough Liquor Board Rejects 5 Licenses,” Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1948, p. 2.

If rejection by the “tough liquor board” was not enough, on New Year’s Eve 1948, Stephens Block had occasion to burn once again. With damage reported as high as $60,000, this one was much larger.

“No accurate estimate of the damage to Karson’s Restaurant, owned by Stanley Galanos and Spero Andrews, could be made, but large stocks of food and equipment were known to have been destroyed by smoke and water.

The entire northwest section of the restaurant and other nearby tables were ruined. The greater portion of the false ceiling and flood boards near the north wall were ripped out by firemen in an effort to reach flamed racing up the wall.

The soda fountain and the kitchen of the restaurant were comparatively undamaged, and the owners expected that they would be operating in a week on a shortened schedule.”30”Arthur Murray’s Dance Studios Took Heavy Loss in Fire,” Ottawa Journal, January 3, 1949, p. 15.

No restaurant worth its salt didn't excel in apple pie. Karson's was no exception. Source: Ottawa Journal, July 19, 1949, p. 29.
No restaurant worth its salt didn’t excel in apple pie. Karson’s was no exception. Source: Ottawa Journal, July 19, 1949, p. 29.

Fire aside, Karson’s was not finished. Andrews was far too driven for that to happen. Karson’s Restaurant was going to stay in business and it was going to get a dining lounge liquor license too. If the third time’s a charm, then the rejections of 1947 and 1948 should be little more than a memory. Andrews once again submitted an application and the public hearing was scheduled for August 30. J.P. Balharrie, a former Ottawa Mayor, president of the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Temperance Federation, and Judge, informed the Journal that temperance forces in Ottawa would oppose any additional licenses “with all our force.”31”Drys Oppose 11 New Ottawa Liquor Licenses: Temperance Forces Say Enough Now,” Ottawa Journal, July 26, 1949, p. 1. Andrews’ application was among the eleven that would be decided upon at the hearing, and is the first time it was referred to as the “Embassy Tavern”.32Ibid. Notice of his application was published in the Journal on August 9.33Ottawa Journal, August 9, 1949, p. 25.

Balharrie promised, and the "temperance forces" delivered. Source: Ottawa Citizen, August 30, 1949, p. 1.
Balharrie promised, and the “temperance forces” delivered. Source: Ottawa Citizen, August 30, 1949, p. 1.

The community meeting on August 30 went as promised: a group of 50 temperance advocates, drawn from the Ontario Temperance Federation and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) “stormed the entrance in an hysterical attempt to brush past officials into the auditorium.”34”Temperance Workers Storm Liquor Board: 50 Brush Aside Guard on Door,” Ottawa Citizen, August 30, 1949, pp. 1, 16. The Citizen reported that the “red-faced and angry men and women left the temple after three quarters of an hour of fruitless attempts to gain access to the hearing.”35Ibid. The Journal reported there were 30036It doesn’t seem like that many would fit into the building, but when the Oddfellows did outgrow the building in 1977, it was reported that it was 10,000 square feet. See “Odd Fellows Outgrow Home of 55 Years,” Ottawa Citizen, September 23, 1977, p. 4. in the room once the meeting had come to order. Reasoning for temperance forces’ opposition varied from there simply being “enough” places to drink, liquor being the cause of broken homes, and the idea that “drinking and bowling don’t mix.”37”Dry Forces Take Liquor Board By Storm: 300 Jam License Hearing,” Ottawa Journal, August 30, 1949, pp. 1, 28. For all of the red faces and emotion, the board reserved decision on most of the applications.38Ibid, Citizen, Ibid, Journal. In the end, Andrews was once again rejected.

Temperance Advocates storm the Oddfellows' Hall on Somerset Street. Source: Ottawa Journal, August 30, 1949, p. 1.
Temperance Advocates storm the Oddfellows’ Hall on Somerset Street. Source: Ottawa Journal, August 30, 1949, p. 1.

Between the fires and consistent opposition to his being able to serve beer and wine with the meals at Karson’s Restaurant, Andrews was galvanized. Not only was he advocating for his own business, but for restaurants in Ottawa in general. In a meeting of the Ottawa Branch of the Canadian Restaurant Association held at his restaurant, Andrews lead the charge against federal government plans to open its own cafeterias in government buildings. After all, there were “ample restaurant and cafeteria facilities in Ottawa, especially in the central part where most of the government offices are located.”39”Restauranteurs Oppose Govt. Cafeterias,” Ottawa Citizen, September 7, 1949, p. 16; “Keep Out of Cafeteria Business Restaurant Men to Tell CS,” Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1949, p. 2. Andrews (along with a number of other recognizable restauranteurs) were also active in various aspects of the Greek community. In his case, he was elected vice-president of the local Greek Orthodox organization.40”Greek Orthodox Community Pick Officers,” Ottawa Journal, January 17, 1950, p. 3.

Andrews (far right) was a familiar face in the local papers. In this case, he poses for a picture at a dog derby reception held at his Embassy Restaurant in 1954. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA003155, February 9, 1954.
Andrews (far right, holding one end of the cake) was a familiar face in the local papers. In this case, he poses for a picture at a dog derby reception held at his Embassy Restaurant in 1954. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA003155, February 9, 1954.

In 1951, after having served as the Chairman of the Publicity and Advertising Committee of the Ottawa Branch of the Canadian Restaurant Association,41Ottawa Journal, May 16, 1950, p. 20. he was elected its president.42”Spero Andrews Heads Restaurant Men,” Ottawa Journal, November 27, 1951, p. 16. In that position, as I noted in the story about the Embassy Restaurant, he made good use of publicity and promotional approaches to advocacy for his industry.

Once Andrews took over the Ottawa Branch of the CRA, Citizen and Journal reporters were around more frequently. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 16, 1952, p. 8.
Once Andrews took over the Ottawa Branch of the CRA, Citizen and Journal reporters were around more frequently. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 16, 1952, p. 8.

The other battles had not let up when Andrews was promoting his industry or serving the local Greek community. In May of 1952, Karson’s Restaurant experienced another fire. Since flames had become so routine on the corner, with the 60 customers in the restaurant getting up, paying their bills, and filing out quietly. There was no panic reported, with one waitress remarking that “you would have thought they were playing God Save the Queen when the alarm sounded.”43”Patrons File Out, Pay Bills In Karson’s Restaurant Fire,” Ottawa Journal, May 5, 1952, p. 16.

Liquor licensing had not stopped being contentious in the interim either. That the City of Ottawa itself had come to hold a rather large number of licenses in the face of a generally restrictive and stingy Liquor Licensing Board did not escape notice. At the May 30, 1952 meeting, R.A. Hughes, lawyer for one of the four applicants under consideration, asked pointed questions of Controller Dan McCann, and suggested that the City was making an attempt to secure itself a liquor monopoly at Lansdowne where, via the Exhibition, the City had in its possession numerous licenses.44”City Hinted Building Booze ‘Monopoly’: ‘Protection’ of Lansdowne Bars Charged,” Ottawa Journal, May 30, 1952, pp. 1, 31. Andrews had applied again in 1952 and was once again rejected without reasons made public. In the sort of circular logic that breeds libertarians, objections to his license were lodged because he had applied “four times previously and had been turned down by the Board.”45Ibid, p. 31.

"This had better be non-alcoholic punch." Charlotte Whitton with a group of premiers, including Leslie Frost, who was a frequent target of Temperance-supporting letters from Charlotte Whitton. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA034612, October 5, 1955.
“This had better be non-alcoholic punch.” Charlotte Whitton with a group of premiers, including Leslie Frost, who was a frequent target of Temperance-supporting letters from Charlotte Whitton. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA034612, October 5, 1955.

The sixth time was a charm: Andrews was granted a license for Karson’s Restaurant at the end of 1952.46”‘We’ve Had Enough’ Says Mayor,” Ottawa Journal, January 1, 1953, pp. 1, 5. He wouldn’t be able to enjoy it right away, however. The most forceful of the temperance advocates, Mayor Charlotte Whitton, was irked that the Liquor License Board granted Andrews a license and decided that she would make it a personal mission to see that no more licenses be issued. She also instructed Maxwell Taylor, the city’s Building Inspector to see that no building permit would be issued to Andrews (or anyone else for that matter) for any renovation pertaining to the necessary upgrades to sell the beer and wine that he was now licensed to. A building permit had already been issued, but for renovations necessary after the last fire. The Board of Control was at a loss: the City has passed multiple resolutions demanding of the province that the LLBO grant no new license without consulting the Board of Control or Council first: a demand ignored.47Ibid. Hearing Whitton’s outrage, a number of Ottawa’s united churches joined the chorus, petitioning the Province.48”Glebe United Condemns New Liquor Outlet,” Ottawa Citizen, January 2, 1953, p. 3; “Churches Join Liquor License Protest,” Ottawa Journal, January 3, 1953, p. 1.

Though the ire of Whitton, the Board of Control (whose authority was offended), and the city’s United Churches were largely aimed at Provincial authorities, Andrews and his liquor license remained squarely at the centre of the (figurative) firestorm. As the building permit could not be revoked and Andrews would have likely been successful in having a court order allow him to go forward, Whitton found another avenue: the Health Department. On January 5, the Journal reported that Andrews would have to submit his renovation plans to the Health Department for approval.49”New Liquor Lounge To Submit Plans To Health Dept.,” Ottawa Journal, January 5, 1953, p. 16. In an effort to turn the screws further, the Ottawa Police Commission decided to begin random inspections, a task it split between the Morality Squad and Licensing Team, whereby if they found any funny business, they’d use their existing powers to revoke the establishment’s victualling license.50”Restaurants To Undergo Review At Hands Of Police,” Ottawa Citizen, January 10, 1953, p. 5. If that wasn’t enough, Whitton also pointed out that, with one month’s notice, the Ottawa Police could decline officially to enforce at all the Liquor Control and Liquor Licensing Acts.51”Mayor Starts New Attack In Liquor War,” Ottawa Journal, January 13, 1953, p. 16.

For Andrews' purposes, the fight was over. The days of "Karson's" were numbered. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 3, 1953, p. 23.
For Andrews’ purposes, the fight was over. The days of “Karson’s” were numbered. Source: Ottawa Journal, January 3, 1953, p. 23.

While civic officials insisted they hadn’t singled out Andrews and his Karson’s Restaurant, his license was nevertheless the catalyst of official outrage and the name “Karson’s” was always at the centre of the debate. The three tactics above were not even the whole of it: Whitton and the Board of Control sent a critical letter to Premier Leslie Frost about the chair of the Liquor License Board, W.T. Robb in an attempt to have him removed.52”Liquor Chief Says Protests Considered,” Ottawa Journal, January 27, 1953, p. 16.

Through the Spring of 1953, Spero Andrews' Embassy Restaurant got ready to be introduced to the people of Ottawa. Source: Ottawa Journal, April 14, 1953, p. 26.
Through the Spring of 1953, Spero Andrews’ Embassy Restaurant got ready to be introduced to the people of Ottawa. Source: Ottawa Journal, April 14, 1953, p. 26.

In the end, Whitton and her temperance forces did not defeat Andrews. As I wrote of previously, the Embassy was opened in the Fall of 1953 and it opened as a fully-licensed establishment. Perhaps after six years of efforts to get licensed, Andrews needed a drink.

Advertisement for The Embassy Restaurant run following its soft launch. Source: Ottawa Journal, October 6, 1953, p. 10.
Advertisement for The Embassy Restaurant run following its soft launch. Source: Ottawa Journal, October 6, 1953, p. 10.

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. ”Montreal Firm Buys Karson Restaurant,” Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1934, p. 15; “Make Important Business Change,” Ottawa Journal, June 20, 1934, p. 24.
2. ”Belle Claire Sold In $40,000 Deal,” Ottawa Journal, September 10, 1935, p. 20.
3. ”Uptown Stores Suffer Serious Damage,” Ottawa Citizen, February 21, 1938, p. 5; “Bank Street Shops Damaged By Fire,” Ottawa Journal, February 21, 1938, p. 11.
4. ”Does Daylight Time Apply to Employment?” Ottawa Journal, May 17, 1940, p. 12.
5. ”Fined in Court,” Ottawa Journal, May 25, 1940, p. 12.
6. ”Fined in Court,” Ottawa Journal, October 7, 1940, p. 12.
7. ”Charged With Failing Report Money Sale,” Ottawa Journal, May 26, 1941, p. 12.
8. ”Ottawa Men Fined In The First Case Affecting Exchange,” Ottawa Journal, May 28, 1941, p. 12.
9. ”Much Building Bringing Many Changes Here,” Ottawa Citizen, February 3, 1941, pp. 1, 12.
10. Ottawa Journal, October 9, 1941, p. 19.
11. ”Fined in Court,” Ottawa Journal, March 16, 1944, p. 7.
12. ”Ottawa Restaurant Charged With Breach Of Price Ceiling,” Ottawa Journal, August 11, 1944, p. 12.
13. ”Ottawa Restaurant Fined $20 on Charge,” Ottawa Journal, August 12, 1944, p. 15.
14. ”Miss Eva Karson Dies In Ottawa,” Ottawa Journal, April 11, 1945, p. 4; “Last Respects Paid To Miss Eva Karson,” Ottawa Journal, April 16, 1945, p. 19.
15. ”Louis Schwartz Joins Air Force,” Ottawa Journal, January 15, 1943, p. 12.
16. I don’t have a specific date, though it does seem that the Karson brothers both cashed out around the same time. The Karson’s outlet on Rideau street was sold to F.W. Woolworth for $120,000 in January 1945. Woolworth (the site of Chapters today) planned a considerable expansion. See “Property Worth $120,000 Sold To F.W. Woolworth Company,” Ottawa Journal, February 6, 1945, p. 5. No such transaction report could have existed for the Bank and Sparks location, as the space was only leased from Sovereign Realty.
17. ”Hooded Bandit Robs Restaurant Owner At Gunpoint,” Ottawa Journal, April 13, 1946, p. 22.
18. The history of Ontario’s post-prohibition liquor policy has been well-covered numerous sources. See Dan Malleck. “The Bureaucratization of Moral Regulation: The LCBO and (not-so) Standard Hotel Licensing in Niagara, 1927-1944, Social History 38 (May 2005): 59-77; Dan Malleck. “Leisure, Liquor and Control: Negotiating recreation in the beverage rooms of post-prohibition Ontario, 1927-1939.” Annals of Leisure Research 11 (2008): 368-385; Eric Single and Barry Eakins. “The Politics of Accommodation: Alcohol Policy in Ontario in the Postwar Era,” Contemporary Drug Problems 10 (Spring 1981): 23-35; Sharon Jaeger. From Control to Customer Service: Government Control of Liquor in Ontario, 1927-1972 (PhD. diss., University of Waterloo, 2000).
19. Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1946, p. 25.
20. Ottawa Journal, February 5, 1947, p. 26.
21. Ibid.
22. The 12 first approvals were The Albion Hotel, Alexandra Hotel, Bytown Inn, Canada Hotel, Chateau Laurier, Lord Elgin Hotel, Plaza Hotel, Windsor Hotel, Laurentian Club, Ottawa Hunt Club, Rideau Club, and La  Touraine (in the Roxborough Apartments). The one flat refusal was Copacabana Club at 68 Slater. The Belle Claire Hotel, Belmont Hotel, LaSalle Hotel, St. Charles Hotel, Grads Hotel, Victoria Hotel, and Rideau Lawn Tennis Club were considered “held up” or “under consideration.” Being granted a license was just one step: premises had to be made compliant and not all of the successful applicants had even begun work. No decision had yet been rendered at the time for those who applied for the dining lounge licenses. These included The Golden Grill (303 Bank), Bar-B-Q Chicken Palace (374 Bank), Powers Grill (33 Metcalfe), Karson’s (60 Bank), Cozy Corner (Preston and Carling), Dayton’s (248 Bank), Cavendish (184 Sparks), Tea Garden (145 Sparks), Sorento’s (176 Bank), Imbro Bros. (415 Rideau), Chippewa Lodge (Barry’s Bay).
23. See Richard Jackson. “Approve 12 Cocktail Bars For Ottawa,” Ottawa Journal, March 28, 1947, pp. 1, 16.
24. ”100 Ottawa Students Escape in Fire: Many Use Ladders To Get Out Of Burning Building,” Ottawa Journal, June 17, 1947, pp. 1, 12.
25. ”Fire Drives Diners From Restaurant,” Ottawa Journal, November 6, 1947, p. 32.
26. Rose, you’ll remember, was fined $10 for exchanging American currency without registration during the War. The pair were made familiar with wartime price controls in 1944, being assessed a $50 fine for selling over the ceiling. See “Ottawa Restaurant Fined $50,” Ottawa Journal, October 13, 1944, p. 1.
27. ”Oppose Liquor License Here,” Ottawa Citizen, February 13, 1948, p. 1.
28. Ibid.
29. ”Tough Liquor Board Rejects 5 Licenses,” Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1948, p. 2.
30. ”Arthur Murray’s Dance Studios Took Heavy Loss in Fire,” Ottawa Journal, January 3, 1949, p. 15.
31. ”Drys Oppose 11 New Ottawa Liquor Licenses: Temperance Forces Say Enough Now,” Ottawa Journal, July 26, 1949, p. 1.
32. Ibid.
33. Ottawa Journal, August 9, 1949, p. 25.
34. ”Temperance Workers Storm Liquor Board: 50 Brush Aside Guard on Door,” Ottawa Citizen, August 30, 1949, pp. 1, 16.
35. Ibid.
36. It doesn’t seem like that many would fit into the building, but when the Oddfellows did outgrow the building in 1977, it was reported that it was 10,000 square feet. See “Odd Fellows Outgrow Home of 55 Years,” Ottawa Citizen, September 23, 1977, p. 4.
37. ”Dry Forces Take Liquor Board By Storm: 300 Jam License Hearing,” Ottawa Journal, August 30, 1949, pp. 1, 28.
38. Ibid, Citizen, Ibid, Journal.
39. ”Restauranteurs Oppose Govt. Cafeterias,” Ottawa Citizen, September 7, 1949, p. 16; “Keep Out of Cafeteria Business Restaurant Men to Tell CS,” Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1949, p. 2.
40. ”Greek Orthodox Community Pick Officers,” Ottawa Journal, January 17, 1950, p. 3.
41. Ottawa Journal, May 16, 1950, p. 20.
42. ”Spero Andrews Heads Restaurant Men,” Ottawa Journal, November 27, 1951, p. 16.
43. ”Patrons File Out, Pay Bills In Karson’s Restaurant Fire,” Ottawa Journal, May 5, 1952, p. 16.
44. ”City Hinted Building Booze ‘Monopoly’: ‘Protection’ of Lansdowne Bars Charged,” Ottawa Journal, May 30, 1952, pp. 1, 31.
45. Ibid, p. 31.
46. ”‘We’ve Had Enough’ Says Mayor,” Ottawa Journal, January 1, 1953, pp. 1, 5.
47. Ibid.
48. ”Glebe United Condemns New Liquor Outlet,” Ottawa Citizen, January 2, 1953, p. 3; “Churches Join Liquor License Protest,” Ottawa Journal, January 3, 1953, p. 1.
49. ”New Liquor Lounge To Submit Plans To Health Dept.,” Ottawa Journal, January 5, 1953, p. 16.
50. ”Restaurants To Undergo Review At Hands Of Police,” Ottawa Citizen, January 10, 1953, p. 5.
51. ”Mayor Starts New Attack In Liquor War,” Ottawa Journal, January 13, 1953, p. 16.
52. ”Liquor Chief Says Protests Considered,” Ottawa Journal, January 27, 1953, p. 16.

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