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Dessert shop in Ajax featured by Keith Lee forced to move after zoning complaint

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A small Ajax dessert shop that recently received a glowing review from celebrity food critic Keith Lee is being forced to move after a zoning complaint was made following the social media influencer’s visit last month.


On April 5, Lee paid a visit to Biscuits to Baskets, a small dessert shop located in the backyard shed of a home in a quiet, residential neighbourhood in Ajax.


The business saw a big boost in customers immediately after Lee posted a TikTok video to his 16 million followers, offering a positive review of the local shop.


“We’re excited to see a lot more new faces,” Victoria Fliegel, Biscuits to Baskets shop manager, told CP24 last month.


But just weeks after Lee’s visit, the business was told by the municipality that it could no longer stay in the backyard building where it currently operates after a zoning complaint was made to the municipality.


“Due to a recent visit by the town, it has come to our attention that our backyard is not a suitable space for business as it’s separate from the main house,” Biscuits to Baskets said in a statement posted on social media.


“This flew right under our radar and had not been addressed to us until now.”


The post went on to explain that in order to continue to operate, they will now have to run the shop out of the main house on the property starting on June 1.


The owners said they have been operating as a home-based business for 20 years and five years ago, they decided to move part of the business to the backyard shed. They added that they were following all protocols “to the best of our knowledge.”


In the post, they told customers that hours will not be impacted and that the only change is where patrons will have to pick up their treats.


In a statement sent to CP24.com on Thursday, the Town of Ajax confirmed that a letter had been sent to Biscuits to Baskets from the town’s bylaw services division.


According to the statement, the letter indicated that they were “not operating legally within the Town’s Zoning by-law due to operating their home-based business in an accessory building on their property.”


They confirmed that this letter was sent after a complaint was made to the town’s bylaw department following Lee’s visit.


“Biscuits to Baskets have since been provided with several options to ensure they can continue to operate successfully in their primary dwelling, or look at other options for expanding to a commercial storefront,” the statement read. “The Town has been in contact with Biscuits to Baskets and expressed a willingness to work with them moving forward.”


In a video posted on social media this week, Lee responded to the complaint, adding that he reached out to the family who own the business to see how he could help.


“The fact that me and my family had any part in this… didn’t sit well with me,” Lee said in the video posted on TikTok.


Lee said the shop is now selling T-shirts inspired by his visit to help raise funds to move to a new location. He added that, with the family’s permission, he started both Cash App and Paypal accounts for people to donate to in order to support the business.


“If you want to, or anybody you know wants to help to either fund a new building for them, fund a food truck, fund a food trailer, wherever this journey may take them… we just wanted to give everybody the option who wanted to help to help, ” he said.


“This business, not only from a food perspective, but from a customer service (perspective), from what they stand for to the spirit of the people who work there, amazing in my opinion.”


Lee’s food reviews have established a phenomenon known as the “Keith Lee Effect,” driving hoards of new customers to businesses that receive a nod from the food critic.


Lee’s stops in the GTA in April for the “FamiLee Food Tour” marked the first time he ventured outside the U.S. for his video reviews.


In the statement released on social media, Biscuits to Baskets acknowledged that while Lee’s review has helped increase its customer base, they still don’t have enough cash for a big move.


“Keith’s visit was a blessing and has definitely given us a push in the right direction but we are still very far away from funding anything bigger than what we have now,” the post read. “We are working hard as a family to find a commercial space by the fall but it’s not guaranteed. It has to be right for us and it has to be right for you. We want to stay in Ajax. This is our home.”

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