Paddington’s Pump Restaurant is located in the historic and picturesque St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Ontario, and is the Market’s only full-service, sit-down restaurant. Now owned by brother and sister duo Effie and Bill Tziamouranis, the business was purchased by their father and uncle in 1990 and the pair have been running it since 1997.
Paddington’s Pump offers a full breakfast menu beginning at 9 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on Saturdays and a complete selection of lunch and dinner foods with fully licensed bar service. Famous for its generous all-day breakfasts, signature peameal bacon sandwiches, fish and chips (a pre-COVID specialty), and fast and friendly service, it’s a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. “It’s the meeting place for vendors and customers who like to start their days early with a good breakfast and a bottomless cup of coffee,” says Effie.
During the summer, Paddington’s features a fully licensed patio on the west side of the South Market. They have been voted one of the best breakfast places in the city by Cheap Eats of Toronto and were recognized for serving one of the top three Reuben sandwiches in town by Toronto Life magazine.
With accolades from established media and customers, Paddington’s is a Toronto favourite. As the pandemic hit the city, and as a sit-down location in the Market, the team was forced to pivot quickly in order to ensure survival. “We reverted to takeout service only, and adjusted our menu to reflect our revised hours,” explains Effie. “We had to lay off basically all of our staff and [my brother and I] ran [the restaurant] until restrictions were lifted and we were able to offer patio or indoor dining. We also implemented a third party delivery and pick-up app partner.”
As a restaurant in the heart of downtown Toronto, Paddington’s was closed for indoor dining for a whopping 320 days (minimum) and was able to take advantage of outdoor dining for about 150 days. In order to keep the business alive, Paddington’s Pump ensured to apply for grants and subsidies including CENA, CEWS, CERS, provincial grants, and most recently the HASCAP loan. Unfortunately, the team applied for CECRA but was not eligible.
For Effie and the team at Paddington’s, not qualifying for CECRA was a blow to the operation. “Sales aren’t anywhere near what they were pre-pandemic and without support, we will go right back to increasing debt to stay open,” says Effie. “The hole will get bigger especially since we are having to pay the full rent that we had to defer, from before the CERS was introduced because our landlord didn’t qualify for the CECRA.”
Effie points out that rent forgiveness would go a long way for their operation. “If the city of Toronto (who is my landlord) would consider abatement of the rent on our indoor dining space during the time we were mandated closed by the government, rather than making us pay the full amount, it would be a hug4e relief. All levels of government should evaluate the true value of small businesses to the local communities they serve and in large part employ.”
Paddington’s is currently employing six staff, which is roughly one-third of the staff they employed pre-pandemic. While they are hoping to eventually bring back everyone, some of their employees have not returned and they are having difficulty in bringing in new hires; “We’ve had great difficulty finding new staff to replace those that chose not to come back or have retired or left the industry.”
As mentioned, Paddington’s did make changes to their operations in order to accommodate the ‘new normal’ with some success, but Effie is quick to point out how these changes were not universally accessible. “We did curbside pickup and tried the QR code for our menu but the customers that would benefit from that are no longer in their offices in the area and many of our elderly clients don’t have the technology to use the QR codes.”
For a restaurant like Paddington’s that depends on tourists and the surrounding business district in the downtown core for sales, 2021 has been a challenge, to say the least. And as a restaurant with such deep roots in the community, the loss of such an institution would be a shame for the neighbourhood, but beyond that would affect Ontario farms, craft breweries, and more.
“Our restaurant and many places like ours have established relationships in the community, we have seen families expand and grow, we have served generations of families who view our place and our food as a tradition in their lives,” Effie elaborates. “We have made lifelong friends over the years of being there. We work with local Ontario farmers for our meat and produce, our baked goods come from a small Portuguese bakery here in Toronto and we support many local craft breweries here in Ontario.”
Effie continues: “We have been a part of local initiatives in our area over the years and want to be a part of our community for years to come. Our goal is to continue to serve our customers in a safe manner as we have for more than 30 years.”