The McDonald’s at 99 Rideau St., considered by some to be an Ottawa institution, won’t be around ByWard Market for much longer.
District Realty, which owns the building, confirmed to CBC that the franchisee has opted not to renew the lease when it expires this summer. The property manager hopes that I can close in April or May.
Since it opened in 1985, the famous downtown restaurant has been a place for people to get a cheap meal or chat with friends. It was popular with the crowds that frequented the nearby bars, those who went inside to use the restroom or took a shortcut between Rideau and George streets.
It has also drawn increasing criticism from the community, the police and the city council in recent years over the numerous reports of crime in and around it.
Given all that, there are mixed reactions to its impending closure.
The CBC spoke to some Ottawans who say it has become an eyesore and even a danger, especially in recent years.
“The last three or four years of COVID, they just turned it into complete garbage,” Hayley Gleiser said.
“I was here about a week and a half ago,” said Jack Graham, recalling the first time he visited the site. “And I felt like I was slipping, so I looked [at my shoe] and there’s a needle.”
Not everyone is happy that the restaurant is leaving.
“They’ve been great tenants. People don’t appreciate how good McDonald’s has been as a member of the community,” said Peter Crosthwaite, the building’s property manager.
“The market will miss them, especially for people looking for an affordable bite.”
Mike Evraire has often relied on McDonald’s for an inexpensive meal in between the help he receives from some of the city’s emergency shelters.
“It’s devastating for some people,” he said.
John Sen echoed those comments, calling the restaurant’s upcoming closure “a significant type of deprivation” for those who are homeless or have lower incomes.
“Homeless people are sometimes outside McDonald’s and if they get a little bit of money, they go in and eat,” he said.
He remembered many times when a friend invited him to eat, or vice versa.
“It means more than food loss to people in Ottawa because, you know, people come here, they sit, they relax, they have coffee. They read the paper, they talk about important things over a meal.”
then there is the raccoon
McDonald’s also became famous, at least locally, after a viral video in the last decade showed someone pulling a raccoon out of their sweater in the middle of a fight inside the restaurant.
Following a 2019 letter from Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau to McDonald’s Canada in 2019 describing a significant increase in calls for help at the location, the restaurant began closing at 10 p.m.
“The vibration there has always been very bad,” said bystander Tim Daniel.
“There are fights, all kinds of things like that.”
On Thursday, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said he frequented the Rideau Street McDonald’s on Friday nights as a teenager.
He declined to comment on its closure, but expressed support for the opening of a new police station in the market.
“I am optimistic about the future of ByWard Market, but I accept that we have many challenges,” he said.
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