A touch of Italy in Barrie

When in Rome, one can do as the Romans, but Barrie now offers the opportunity to experience a touch of Italy as well. The new Monte Carlo Inn Barrie Suites will bring the growing chain’s unique Mediterranean flavour to Simcoe County for the first time. “A lot of hotels in North America are standard square boxes and all look alike,” says Monte Carlo Inns founder and president Dominic Meffe, who opened his first hotel in Mississauga in the mid-1980s. “I figured we needed a chain of hotels that has a different flair to it. Not just to give our customers wallpaper and a bed, but to give them more value for their money.” Among its 80 or so rooms, the new Hart Drive property features theme suites with whirlpools as a prominent feature. “These rooms have a huge whirlpool in the middle of the room with steps and four pillars,” says Meffe, who immigrated to Canada in 1965 and immediately got to work shovelling driveways and then delivering pizzas to hotels and motels. In his own travels, he noticed the luxury tubs were traditionally tucked away in a washroom. In his hotels, he brings them onto centre stage allowing bathers to enjoy natural light, the ambiance of a nearby fireplace, or a great view of their big-screen television. “It’s where you want to be,” he states. Although there are rooms that are more simply appointed for the corporate or leisure traveller, individual theme suites are elaborate European-style sets inviting guests to relax and immerse themselves in the whimsical romance of the interlude. The Romeo and Juliet suite, for example, wouldn’t be the same without a balcony. The suite, popular with newlyweds, features an iron railing leading up to the mezzanine-level bedroom. The Roman, Renaissance, Louis XIV and other suites all offer their own particular characteristics. “I strongly believe people in North America not only enjoy travelling to Europe, but also like to have a European flavour here – in their food, clothing and cars,” Meffe explains. “If it works in everything else, why wouldn’t it work with hotel rooms?” All guest rooms offer marble vanities and a morning newspaper. A microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board are also included. With the Botticelli Ristorante Bar & Grill on site (which local residents are also invited to frequent), room-service is available until late in the evening so the Italian and international cuisine can be enjoyed in private as well. In the morning, all guests are provided with a complimentary breakfast buffet they can take to the dining room or onto the patio. For business travellers, in-room work stations with high-speed wireless internet are widely available. The hotel’s business centre also supports corporate guests with on-site computers, printers, phone and fax services. Local calls are complimentary. Several meeting rooms can accommodate groups who require a main conference space that can seat up to 140 in a classroom configuration, with a couple of break-out areas for smaller groups of 25 to 35. Like the other gathering rooms, the large board room, with a fixed table, has French doors to a patio where a catered lunch can be served, and access to state-of-the-art presentation equipment. The in-house event planner can help function organizers, corporate visitors and leisure travellers with all their requirements, including visits to area attractions like golf courses and ski resorts. When not working, guests can head to the exercise room which offers a choice of equipment and a television with cable. The salt-water pool is nestled in a solarium to maximize sunshine all year round – even when the outdoor sundeck is covered in snow. “People are smart,” observes Meffe. “If they’re paying the same price for a standard box, why wouldn’t they go for it? People really appreciate the value.” Since its premiere, the privately owned Monte Carlo Inns has opened six additional hotels across the Greater Toronto Area. A new Markham location is scheduled to open a year after the Barrie property. “Barrie is a popular city – a good, lovely city,” says Meffe. “It made sense.” For more information, visit www.MonteCarloInns.com.


M&M Charity Barbecue Day Saturday

M&M Meat Shops will hold its 21st annual Charity Barbecue Day on Sat., May 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a minimum donation of $2.50, supporters will receive a hamburger or hot dog, a drink and a bag of chips. Employees and volunteers will serve up burgers and hot dogs in hopes of raising their goal of $2.1 million for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC). In the past 21 years, M&M’s Charity Barbecue Day has raised over 16.5 million toward medical research into inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Canada has among the highest rates of Crohn’s disease in the world.


More than $15k stolen from store

About $15,000 worth of cigarettes and unknown quantity of cash was stolen from Mac’s Convenience Store in Tottenham after someone broke in through the roof of the building early Tuesday morning. The thieves cut the phone lines to the building, before cutting a hole in the roof and then disabling the alarm panel inside the store, said Sean Sportun, the director of loss prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores in central Canada. The culprits physically removed one small safe in the store, before moving on to crack open the big tobacco safe at the back of the store, Sportun said. The small safe had about $800 in cash. The tobacco safe also had an undisclosed amount of cash. Sportun said he suspects the strike was a professional job, given the expertise required to disable the alarm and crack the safe. He said there have been about six rooftop break-ins to Mac’s stores across Ontario this year, but he doesn’t know if they are related. The break-in happened between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. The culprits exited through the back door, police said. They were wearing black hoodie sweatshirts and masks. There were at least two culprits and perhaps a third, police said. They are believed to be male. Damage to the roof and the safes is expected to be several thousands of dollars.