Winnipeg Cafe Owner Facing 6 Months in Jail for Failing to install grease trap

The CBC reports that a small business owner in Winnipeg is facing six months in jail, along with a $50,000 fine after his business was found to have violated a city bylaw that states all businesses that serve food must install a grease trap, which would prevent grease from going down the drain.

The owner of the Neighborhood Bookstore and Café, Bill Fugler, argues that his business, which serves sandwiches, and deserts, doesn’t need a grease trap since it doesn’t produce any grease. He also worries that if his business were forced to install the device, which has a price tag of $3000-$5000; his business may not survive, pointing out that during months of January, February, and March, the business only brings in $3000 a week.

Fugler is looking for an exemption from the bylaw. The closest the city came to that was suggesting Fugler’s business switch to disposable plates and cups, which would mean his business would no longer require a grease trap. This suggestion didn’t resonate well with the owner, who is set to appear in court on February 12th.

The possible fine, and jail term in this case is rather interesting. Six months in prison for failing to install a grease trap seems rather harsh. So does a $50,000 fine. Fines are one thing when an individual, or business fails to follow a city bylaw, but a $50,000 fine and a possible six month jail sentence, is way out of proportion for the offence.

Taking into account the various circumstances in this case, one thing becomes very evident. The city of Winnipeg doesn’t appear willing to work with this small business. Fugler argues that they don’t produce any grease, and that installing the costly grease trap could put them out of business. Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money in court, and wasting money fighting this business owner, why not help him out? Take a look, and see if he is producing any grease or not. If he isn’t as he says, then maybe he should very well be granted an exception.

Small businesses don’t have huge sums of money to throw around in the first place, and costly devices like this don’t help finances at the end of the day. If it can be proven that the business truly doesn’t produce grease, grant them an exception, and leave them alone.

The city does have a novel excuse to continue the fight against Fugler when he says his business doesn’t produce grease. The city argues the business could run mayonnaise down the drain. That’s not exactly a huge amount of grease. But, here’s another way to look at it. How many homeowners run mayonnaise down the drain, and how many run actual grease down the drain? Maybe that’s a better problem to worry about, instead of trying to destroy a business that isn’t doing any wrong.

What ever happened to supporting local businesses? Sure, the community is a big part of it, but if municipalities aren’t willing to work with small, locally operated businesses, local businesses are going to come and go rather quickly.

In this case, the possible consequences Fugler is facing are outrageous. Fining him is one thing. Fining the business to the point that it would have to close its doors is another. Prison time for failing to install a grease trap is absolutely insane. Prison is not the place for a business owner who failed to install a grease trap. At the end of the day, this is a case where the city simply needs to work with Fugler. Giving him such a large fine, and lengthy prison sentence isn’t going to help, or send a positive message to other small businesses in the city.

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