Opposing social media campaigns over the King Street pilot project are ramping up about whether the controversial initiative should continue, and where patrons should spend their money.
Al Carbone, owner of the Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill, held a news conference Monday morning across the street from his restaurant, calling on Mayor John Tory to end the pilot immediately.
“We’d like the mayor to reverse it immediately,” Carbone said. “It’s hurting too many businesses all at once.”
Carbone says some businesses along the busy stretch of King Street between Jarvis and Bathurst have experienced as much as 50 per cent declines since the pilot came into effect in mid-November.
His latest campaign, #EndKingCarBan, comes after his own controversial ice sculpture initiative, which saw large ice sculptures in the shape of a raised middle finger erected outside of businesses along King Street.
The icy cold finger raised the ire of some of the more than 70,000 transit users who use the King streetcar daily, many of whom saw it is a slight against them.
“You’ve been giving the middle finger to everyone passing by your restaurants,” said Trevor Dunseith, who heckled Carbone at the end of the press conference.
“I’m just angry,” he told reporters afterwards. “Angry every time I pass by this place and see the finger, I feel like they’re giving it directly to me.”
Other commuters used the ice sculpture campaign to create their own counter movement, #KingEatsPilot, where they encourage commuters to eat at locations in support of the pilot project, or transit users in general.
“We’re here to give a thumbs up to the King Street pilot, in response to another finger we’re seeing down the street,” said Norman Dipasquale.
The city launched the King Street Pilot project back in November — giving streetcars priority between Jarvis and Bathurst. Early city data shows it has sped up commutes by an average of 2.6 minutes.
Marketing expert Marc Gordon says any time a restaurant gets political, there’s the potential to leave a bad taste in the mouths of patrons.
“Any time businesses get political, they risk alienating their customers,” Gordon said. “Rule number one is customers hate conflict.”
The King Street pilot project is slated to run until November 2018.