Thursday, May 12 2022

A fast growing American fried chicken chain that was introduced to Canada by the founder of the Toronto Raptors is opening a new location in Leslieville. And, much like the Toronto locations before it, it has come under intense scrutiny from the surrounding community – this time before opening day.

Dave’s Hot Chicken, the Californian fast food restaurant specializing in spicy southern chicken, will soon be opening its third restaurant in Toronto, which has been the subject of much controversy. The restaurant’s first foray into the city last year also raised its own concerns.

Dave’s first location opened where Pete’s Corner Grill once stood (located at 1582 Queen Street West). This place, a staple in the neighborhood, was known for its friendly and hearty breakfasts, but was forced to close at the end of October after nearly 12 years. The brand’s flagship Toronto location opened during the pandemic and saw massive queues around the block during opening weekend, causing Parkdale residents to question the COVID security measures the company was taking.

Local residents also criticized the family who funded the brand’s expansion in Canada; John Bitove, founder of the Toronto Raptors, teamed up with Dave’s and his daughter Blair Bitove to open the new Canadian locations.

While Dave’s second location near Yonge and Davisville has opened with a bang (aside from those craving hot chicken), this soon-to-open location at 1130 Queen Street E. is not without it. its detractors. The fried chicken chain will replace Stratengers, a neighborhood pub popular with locals that closed after 32 years in January 2021 when the owners decided to retire.

Those unhappy with the announcement of an impending hot chicken from Dave have taken to social media to voice their concerns, with a long string of comments appearing in the “I’m a Leslievillian!” Facebook group. While some were happy to welcome the new business to the neighborhood, others lamented the loss of a long-standing staple and wondered if Leslieville was losing its charm.

“Our stretch from Carlaw to Leslie has lost way too many great local businesses that gave us a great vibe, and they’re being replaced with corporate or cannabis operations,” wrote one commentator.

As of this writing, the franchise has not responded to comments.

The American chain has announced its intention to branch out into the United States with 30 Canadian branches, starting with British Columbia and Ontario. Dave’s Hot Chicken has partnered with Toronto Raptors founder John Bitove for expansion into Canada. Daughter of Bitove, Blair took on the role of Director of Business Development.

The concept for Dave’s Hot Chicken comes from best friends Dave Kopushyan, Arman Oganesyan and Tommy and Gary Rubenyan. What started as a pop-up parking lot in East Hollywood in 2017 has quickly grown into a franchise brand with locations throughout California as well as in several other states.

The California brand is known for its spicy, crispy chicken with an extra-fire kick thanks to the daring blend of spices and hot sauces. Each piece is topped with an iconic blend of spices, ranging from “Mild” to “The Reaper”.

It remains to be seen whether the people of Leslieville will fully embrace Dave’s once it opens, but for now, the Hot Chicken Chain isn’t going anywhere.

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