BIA Letter: Urgent Ask for Additional Supports and Clarity for Main Street Businesses

There’s no doubt, our main street businesses are hurting in many ways and need ongoing support to get through this pandemic. Read our letter sent along with other Toronto BIAs to our provincial leaders asking for outcomes including more financial support for Toronto-based businesses, policy that is driven by transparent statistics, and clear lines of communication.

April 9, 2021

To our provincial leaders,

Re: Urgent Ask for Additional Supports and Clarity for Main Street Businesses

The Riverside District, Queen Street West, Bloorcourt, Leslieville and West Queen West BIAs are five of Toronto’s 80+ BIAs. We collectively represent approximately 1300 small and medium sized businesses and property owners. The views expressed in this letter come from our direct consultations with our members.

While we recognize that efforts have been made to support our businesses during the ongoing pandemic, not enough has been done. Our members are looking for outcomes including more financial support for Toronto-based businesses, policy that is driven by transparent statistics, and clear lines of communication.

In summary, what is needed:

More sustained financial support for Toronto area businesses who have been on the longest lockdown in North America – with geographic considerations toward fixed costs:

  • Remuneration for sectors that were publicly informed of reopening timeframes and then ordered to abandon reopening plans (including but not limited to health, fitness, beauty, wellness, retail, restaurants, and hospitality)
  • Introducing a sector-specific program for covering reopening and closure costs, such as wasted inventory, staffing costs, etc.
    Inclusive financial support programs that ensure all types of businesses in need are able to participate (i.e. new businesses that have opened during the pandemic, single person businesses).
  • Immediately and permanently cease the 6% markup that restaurants pay for alcohol from the LCBO.

Scientific and evidence-based decision-making for policies and regulations:

  • Transparency is needed with credible facts and sources to identify the reasoning for strong and major business closure actions taken by the provincial government
  • A clear path is needed now for how businesses can plan for re-opening for the remainder of 2021, following the current stay-at-home/ lockdown order, aligned with statistics, clearly associated KPIs (e.g. based on case counts, vaccination rates)

Clear lines of communication

  • Outline a clear plan for how lockdown measures will be eased to avoid any further unnecessary costs for reopening and closing of businesses. News releases must immediately come with updated detailed regulations and orders.
  • Create a reasonable and clear set of rules for vaccinated people to remove uncertainty for our public-facing main street businesses

Due to the financial devastation that has been produced by the actions provincial government measures have been enacted to date, some businesses are taking risks under the strain they are experiencing. The only way to navigate past this reality is to directly address their concerns transparently on a financial, mental and emotional level.

We are already losing the character of our neighbourhoods and the social and economic diversity in all sectors of industry. The measures we have outlined are what business leaders need to see now to prevent decimation of our main streets.

See the full letter here


Local Collab: Artist RUNT X Saulter Street Brewery

Have you heard?! Saulter Street Brewery in Riverside neighbourhood has paired up with world-renowned homegrown artist RUNT. 

It’s ALL about LOCAL ART & LOCAL BEER – what could be better?! Read on to learn more and see some of the incredible art (and beer) in store…

Thank you to Saulter Street Brewery and RUNT for this guest blog – we are pleased to help spread the word about this incredible new collaboration of local business and local artistry!


Saulter Street Brewery is thrilled to announce the first drop in a series of upcoming art project collaborations with Internationally recognized street artist RUNT.  In this first installment, you can now enjoy the limited edition Maibock beer featuring original artwork by RUNT.



MAIBOCK, derived from the German term “MAY Billy Goat”, is the perfect beer to transition from the depths of winter to the warmer spring season.  

Also known as Helles Bock, it is a lager with a “warm golden Hue” and an elevated level of hop in comparison to other bocks. It is bready and has the toasty flavors of a pale Doppelbock which is the beer that monks historically nicknamed liquid bread while they fasted during lent.

The Maibock has a lesser alcoholic percentage that the Doppelbock, while having more hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness.  It is gold to light amber in color, moderate bitterness at 25 IBU and has 6% ALC.

RUNT is widely recognized as one of Canada’s unique creative minds, his passionate sense of adventure has fueled his work for decades. 

Known for his large-scale detailed murals, his work has been gracing walls for over 30 years. His work has been commissioned by some of the top corporations in the world, including the Toronto Transit Commission, YouTube offices, Bather Apparel, Absolute Vodka and NXNE music festival to name a few.  He was selected as the feature artist for Fortune 500’s Global Forum event, his monumental commissioned artwork was viewed by some of the world’s most influential businesses and political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At once familiar and unfamiliar, Runt’s works are of this world but not of this world. Informed by a wide range of influences, from Hieronymus Bosch to Dr. Seuss, Runt’s work embodies a love and critique of humanity as his monster scenescapes play out in front of the viewer’s eyes. If one could press “play” on any of his scenes and advance them, the scenes would look entirely different. Runt’s characters capture the joy and aggression of our urban existence.

Saulter Street Brewery is rooted in the local community.

“We opened our red barn doors in August 2017 with the goal of making great beer and creating a space that inspires people to come together and live in the moment. With that goal in mind and with a talented team in place, we started brewing. It did not take long for the team to fall in love with the entire process. The endless combinations kept our curiosity alive, and I developed a patience that I didn’t know I had. Watching others enjoy our creations made me feel like I’d found my true calling in life and, in that moment, I knew that we had the opportunity to do something great” – says founder John Sterling, owner of Saulter Street Brewery. 

“When it came time to decide on a location for the brewery, we were immediately drawn to the community and timeless charm of Riverside, where we found a peculiar little barn on Saulter Street. Upon my first visit, I had feeling that time seemed to have slowed down. It felt like a little escape from the city, hidden within it.” 

Saulter Street Brewery, 1-31 Saulter Street, Toronto, ON 

The Opera House, The Hub in Toronto and the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club

The Opera House in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood, along with Lemmon Entertainment and PRG have all come together to launch The HUB. The HUB is a full broadcast + content capture studio located at the Opera House, 735 Queen Street East.

Lost Tapes of the 27 Club

The HUB has secured their first shoot which will capture content for ‘The Lost Tapes Live’. The Lost Tapes Live, a Lemmon Entertainment production, is a virtual broadcast that gives an in-depth look into the complex relationship between talent, fame and tragedy through interviews, testimonials and live performances.  The Lost Tapes Live was created in support of Lost Tapes of the 27 Club campaign. 

The campaign by Over The Bridge spotlights the music industry’s mental health crisis. 

The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club campaign has officially launched

To show the world what’s been lost to this mental health crisis, Over The Bridge, an organization that empowers musicians and to reclaim their lives from their mental health struggles, used artificial intelligence to create the album the 27 Club never had the chance to. Through this album, they’re encouraging more music industry insiders to get the mental health support they need, so they can continue making the music we all love for years to come. 

“It’s through these songs that we’re showing musicians, and the public, what could have been had artists not lost their lives to mental health issues.”

Did you know:

  • 68% of musicians have experienced depression
  • 71%of musicians believe they’ve experienced incidences of anxiety and panic attacks
  • Suicide attempts for music industry workers are more than double that of the general population
Lost Tapes of the 27 Club

What do they want to achieve with this campaign?

“We want everyone in the industry to know that there is support.” 

  • Mass awareness for those working in the industry to know that there are organizations like Over the Bridge that are there for them to help.
  • Raise awareness that those working in the music industry are a vulnerable community, especially during the pandemic.
  • Create a talking point for those in the industry and wider media to talk about mental health in the music and entertainment industry, focusing on de-stigmatizing and challenging the romanticized belief that creativity comes hand-in-hand with suffering.

Get engaged and share the campaign. The music and campaign live online as a microsite, a Spotify album, and a YouTube playlist:

Visit for more information.


Campaign Website link
YouTube playlist link
Spotify playlist link


#LoveOnQueen February Edition Wrap Up!

That’s a wrap for #LoveOnQueen! It’s been an incredible 28 days of gift card giveaways to Queen Street businesses, and a great collab with @riverside_bia & @queenstreetwest (& it won’t be the last!). Thx everyone for keeping up the local love!! We’re better together!!

What was #LoveOnQueen?

Over the month of February, Riverside BIA (Queen St E) and Queen Street West BIA teamed on month-long extravaganza of loving Queen Street businesses with 28 days of giveaways. It’s all in support of over 400 local businesses in these Queen Street BIAs.

The campaign featured a daily draw for a $50 voucher from a different local business, with a $200 giveaway on Sunday between both BIAs combining prizes. 

Thanks to everyone who joined us in loving local businesses on Queen Street every day in February and keep it up

p.s. we predict more collaborations to come between Riverside BIA (Queen E) and Queen Street West BIA.

Humans of Riverside: RACHELLE’S STORY

“My name is Rachelle Wintzen and I am the founder and sole owner of the Chi Junky Studio. This studio was born from my personal experience and journey to health. The philosophies and foundation that Chi is built on changed my life and it became my mission to create a space that would bring the same healing to as many people as possible.”


Multiracial, independent female, small business owner and entrepreneur in Riverside.

Her Story:

I was born and raised in Toronto. I am Chinese-Jamaican, Indian and French. My mother was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Her mother was Chinese and her father was biracial, Chinese and Indian. My mother and her family migrated to Canada in 1975. My father was born and raised in Paris, France, and moved to Canada in1979 after meeting my mother.

I was fortunate to be raised by generations of hard working entrepreneurs and small business owners who instilled a strong work ethic in me. I am born from entrepreneurial blood. In 1912, my great-grandfather started his own shop in Jamaica, followed by my grandfather who owned a bakery and my parents who ran their own business in Toronto for over 30 years in Riverside. 

Chi Junky was born from my personal experience and struggle with addiction and my journey to change my life completely. My dream, from the age of 4, was to be a professional dancer and to live in New York City. I was inspired by my beloved uncle who, at age 36, passed away from AIDS. He was a brilliant New York fashion designer and introduced me to the city that stole my heart as a young girl.

At 20 years old I moved to NYC to pursue dance professionally but after two years injuries ended my career and left me suffering from deep depression. I began working in the A-list New York City nightlife scene and was immediately under its spell. I developed a dependency that turned into an addiction to hard drugs and alcohol. After many years of suffering, I knew if I didn’t leave that lifestyle I wouldn’t live past my 30th birthday.

Through many small moments of grace and divine intervention, I met my mentor, Gil Jacobs, who changed my life. By immersing myself under his tutelage I transformed my lifestyle through holistic modalities, nutrition and yoga. It was this 180-degree transformation that allowed me to experience true vitality, my chi (prana – life force energy) and a new found love for life. It became my mission to help people change their lives and to realize that it is never too late to change, no matter how impossible it may seem. And so, Chi Junky was born in New York City in 2010. 

‘Ch’i,’ pronounced CHEE, is the Chinese medicine word for life force energy, vitality. It is often translated as “energy flow.” To maintain physical and emotional health, chi must flow freely.

Junky is inspired by the book Junky, by William S. Burroughs, which tells the story of a young man living in New York City who becomes addicted to narcotics. The definition: “A person who gets an usual amount of pleasure from or has an insatiable interest in something.”

I chose to name my business Chi Junky to change the negative connotation of the word addiction into something positive. To become addicted to something good, in this case your Chi. To live a vibrant healthy lifestyle full of vitality everyday. 

I became certified in the disciplines that helped change my life and moved to Ambergris Caye, Belize, in Central America for two years, helping people through yoga, nutrition and holistic wellness. I moved back to Toronto in 2012 and after two years of working as a freelance yoga instructor and holistic nutritionist took the plunge and opened the Chi Junky Yoga + Wellness Studio in Riverside in 2014. 

I started as a one-woman show and still fund the business without outside partners or investors. I began the studio in a space the size of a treatment room (100 sq. ft.), running semi-private yoga classes. Over the last six years the studio has grown into a 4,000 sq. ft. studio through incredible determination, sacrifice, hard work and overcoming every obstacle that ever stood in my way. I continue to give my everything to this business, my incredible staff and community. 

Chi Junky® is Toronto’s premier boutique yoga studio located in the east end of Toronto in Riverside. Our newly renovated studio prides itself on stunning design and attention to detail. It includes two practice studios, two treatment rooms, client lounge, retail and Chi At Home, our virtual interactive livestream classes.

Our mission is to provide a safe space to heal physically and emotionally through movement and music. Chi Junky is a unique yoga haven known for curating an exceptional movement experience with signature classes from Sweat Flow to Zen Vibes Only and everything in between. Each class offers premium full service amenities with killer playlists and top instruction. Our studio is rooted in building a supportive community and giving back through various charities, making yoga accessible and welcoming all to step into their chi.

About the Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” Storytelling Series:

The Riverside BIA – located along Toronto’s Queen Street East from the iconic bridge over the Don River to just past De Grassi St – is proud to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness with this story-telling series.

The ‘Humans of Riverside’ story telling project launched in summer 2020 as part of the iheART Main Street Art Challenge and is an on-going collaboration with local writer and editor Grace Cameron to give space and voice to stories from local BIPOC and other community members in Riverside.