This past summer, Callander leased the Lion’s Den Canteen within Callander’s Centennial Park to Moose on the Loose. It was the first time the municipality had leased the building, and staff recently prepared a review of the season, which included survey results gathered from local businesses and residents.
Overall, “the survey results were positive,” although the town lost just over $3,000 in operations cost. Rent for the canteen was $4,500, but the extra work for the operations crew amounted to about $300 per week, municipal staff calculated.
That additional cost was mainly due to the extra garbage produced by the canteen’s operations. Utility costs for the building came in at $1,734.
Money was lost, but Moose on the Loose did draw many people to the park, which was also a goal of council, as part of its strategic plan – to draw tourism to the town and downtown. The Parks and Recreation Master Plan also noted the canteen was underutilized, and council decided to see if there was any interest in renting it for the season.
Late in 2022, two bids were received to operate the canteen. One offered $2,000 for the space, whereas the Moose on the Loose offered $4,500. The town was looking for at least $3,500. Moose on the Loose also donated $300 to the Lion’s Club, which originally built the canteen. The club used the canteen to raise money during Callander’s annual FunFest, and that donation helped to offset that lost revenue.
Chris White, who owns and operated Moose on the Loose, said “it was a great experience” operating the canteen, with “lots of support from City Hall and the community.” As for returning for another season, he mentioned he wasn’t planning on it. “We decided to stick with the downtown location,” he said, referring to the Moose’s Cookhouse in downtown North Bay. “One restaurant is enough,” he added, “guess I’m slowing down” he joked.
The Moose on the Loose mainly operated on weekends, and the better the weather, the more people came out, White noted in his survey to council. However, local restaurants “noticed a decrease in sales of items in direct competition” with the canteen’s wares.
People were buying their burgers and fries from the park, which cut down on customers frequenting other local restaurants. Another issue staff revealed was parking at the Medical Centre. Adjacent to the park, the lot filled up when the Moose's grill was cooking.
Municipal staff contacted over 100 businesses to hear their opinions on the canteen, but only 14 responded. White and his crew noted that “the canteen can be lucrative for a business,” and about “80 per cent” of their customers were those who were already in the park.
On sunny days, staff in the canteen “were run off their feet,” but when the rain came, “it was not worth opening.” Restaurant crew also mentioned it was a bit cramped inside the canteen, because when they were busy, they had up to eight people working.
It was also hot inside that box, and staff recommended the city replace the hood fan over the stove. A commercial dishwasher would also be nice, crew added.
What’s next? Municipal staff recommend a minimum $8,000 per season fee would be necessary or ensure that utilities are covered by the operator. Council is open to leasing the space for another season and will consider other types of businesses which might want to occupy the canteen.
“Overall, the operation of the canteen did prove successful in attracting people to the area as intended,” staff explained, “which was noted based on the survey results and conversations with the operators.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.