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Dining in the dark at the Boulevard Cafe [moved from Ontario board]

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We had dinner at the Boulevard Café on Harbord Street last night. It was a warm, humid evening, so we were far more comfortable on the outdoor patio than inside.

The food (in my case, the Peruvian seafood stew) was tasty, if, in my opinion, a bit pricey, and the portions somewhat small.

The main problem of the evening occurred due to a film crew that was working in the intersection outside of the restaurant. As I began my seafood stew, all the lights were turned off, and remained that way for at least a half hour, leaving us to struggle to eat food we could hardly see. The explanation was that the lights from the restaurant interfered with the filming.

I wonder if the restaurant had some legal obligation to do this for the film crew, since I would think that their first obligation should have been to its customers’ comfort, not to the filming schedule.

In any case, some sort of apology or compensation - say, a free dessert, some money off the bill or even an invitation to return another evening would have been appropriate, but none was offered. They didn’t even bring me a refill on my coffee.

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  1. I wonder if the production company paid the restaurant to dim the lights, so there was a financial incentive for them, regardless of the inconvenience to their customers, as there is no legal obligation whatsoever to concede to a film production in the area.

    I lived in an area of Toronto where filming always occurred in the summer, and people from the film would pay neighbours not to mow their lawn, to park their cars elsewhere, to not come out on the front porch and sit, etc. so they wouldn't ruin the shot. Many neighbours deliberately made a fuss and tried to be a nuisance just to be paid off.

    3 Replies
    1. re: czthemmnt

      You beter believe rthe restaurant was paid off by the fim company. I work with lots of film folks, and in fact had dinner with a location manager only yesterday. He told me the dollar figures for this sort of thing are escalating astronomically, and no one with any brain would do waht the Boulevard did for free. Hopw dare they even consider using the patio when they knew this was happening. It is not something that happens on the spur of the moment. permits have to be applied fo ra nd paid at City Hall in advance of any shoot, so the Boulevard cannot claim it wa just a once in a while, spur of the moment happening. If I was one of the diners during this incident, I would contact the management and request a complimentary return dinner, at the very least.

      1. re: czthemmnt

        Actually film companies get city permits to shoot and interferring with a permitted shoot is against the law and you can be fined...

        1. re: czthemmnt

          They didn't even light a candle?

        2. I used to work in film, I would say the restaurant was definetly paid off to help them out, I would have expected at least a heads up from the staff upon arriving that this sort of thing might/would be happening and if I was the owner of the place offered dessert on the house or some like compensation...should be a no-brainer in a service industry...

          5 Replies
          1. re: Recyclor

            My business is used very often for shoots.
            Sometimes once or twice a month.
            I have never asked for money, or been paid.
            I get an occasional plug, or a credit, but think that films bring $$$$ to the city, and will only benefit us.
            It is also a boon for restaurants.

            1. re: erly

              So I am supposed to sit there in the dark, dripping broth onto my shirt, happy in the knowledge that some good will eventually come down to me?

              This sounds like horse-and-sparrow economics. "If you want to feed the sparrows, give the horse plenty of oats. The sparrows will be fed on what the horse leaves behind."

              1. re: ekammin

                Ekammin, given that the restaurant was probably paid (and if it wasn't, should have known to ask), I think you have every reason to call and ask for some kind of compensation -- like a free meal.

                1. re: estragon

                  LOL, a running joke in the film biz is the line used by producers: "we'll put your name in the credits"...generally used to get out of compensating somebody...some people are very tolerant of shoots, others are out for blood as soon as the unit rolls in...c'est la vie...I'd put up with their inconvenience on the street one on one, but if a restaurant was altering the experience they were selling to me like in this case I'd have words with the management for sure...

                  1. re: Recyclor

                    The Toronto film industry has come a long way in thirty years. Thirty years ago, when I was doing personal services for US film companies (finding houses to rent for stars) the studios liked too use the line "folks will line up for the privilege of having Orson Welles (my first client) live in their house for sixteen weeks. " Ha! Now if he were alive, he'd have to spend a penny to use their toilet.

          2. In my view, whether or not the restaurant was compensated is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that you had a diminished experience as a result. I've been eating at Boulevard Cafe for many years and I've never had anything less than a wonderful food and service experience - their patio is one of my favourite spots on a warm summer evening. I would encourage you to speak with the management and give them the opportunity to rectify the situation.

            1 Reply
            1. re: peppermint pate

              Absolutely, it is still a business, and just because a film is shooting customers shouldn't be inconvenienced.

            2. Personally I would have made a stink about it and left as soon as the lights were turned out because they ruined my dinner. The best time to complain about something is right when it happens, not several days afterwards.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Kajikit

                Well, I took the advce that many people gave, and sent an e-mail to the Bouilevard Cafe's management, explaining politely what had happened, and saying that I though some compensation was in order.

                They never even answered. Scratch that one from my list of places to go.