If there is one thing Toronto is world-class in and world-renowned for, it is dance music. Toronto sees some of the world’s most famous international music acts play its bars and clubs every weekend, and according to a recent article in Toronto Life, they bring with them at least $125 million in economic activity. Well, music enthusiasts, bartenders, club district employees, club owners, event promoters, and young people beware: a nightlife crackdown is coming to Toronto and the fight to save your scene (or your livelihood) will not be easy.
Last month’s issue of Toronto Life had a front-page piece detailing the decadent horrors of our sinful Entertainment District—a place so foul, even Satan himself would not party there. We kid, we kid, but leave it to Toronto the Good to be so moralizing and puritanical that it would literally rip the heart out of its thriving nightlife tourism industry. And for what? More recently, Councillor Adam Vaughan lost a bid to deny former New York club king Peter Gatien’s anticipated new club, Circa, a liquor license that has unfairly taken a year to acquire. The decision to grant the license is having an initial stay request heard today, since the AGCO has second-guessed itself and contradicted one of its own decisions for the first time ever. The origin of the renewed pressure is mysteriously unknown.
A number of new rules on the table would see a tax imposed on club owners for long outdoor lineups, a long-term moratorium on new clubs, a limit on how many clubs can be in any one area of the city, and eventually, the shutdown of some existing music venues.
It is very likely that if all the new rules are implemented, certain kinds of music will be targeted specifically, hundreds of employees will lose their jobs, stagnant weekly events will take over (making throwing one-off special events and all-ages nights virtually impossible), relocated clubs will brush up against their new neighbourhoods (in other wards), drunk driving will increase as clubs open in less-central areas, and Toronto will begin to lose its status as a fun place. This plan is going to be a disaster.
Adam Vaughan (whose website doesn’t even list the Entertainment District as a neighbourhood in his ward) seems to think Clubland suffers a problem of density. To us, however, it seems he has a problem with its very existence, saying of the area’s venues, “hopefully they just disappear.” There are a number of solutions that ought to be tried before the disastrous “nuclear option.”
- Enact the sidewalk tax. This is our compromise. There can often be a dangerous number of people on the sidewalk, and this rule should cut down on the number of “you lookin’ at me?” altercations.
- Graduated last call. The City of Toronto now has the authority to permanently grant establishments 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. last calls. Did you know that? 2 a.m. should be the “penalty last call” for businesses that Vaughan calls “bad operators”. This will significantly decrease the flash flood that happens when everybody is let out at once.
- Public washrooms. Enough said.
- Calming LED lights. Certain patterns of subtle lighting can produce a calming effect which has been shown to decrease violence in European club districts.
- Create soundproofing standards for new condos. This will reduce noise complaints of all kinds, allowing residents and music to live together in harmony. It will also decrease energy costs.
- Anti-violence community outreach. Believe it or not, Toronto’s nightlife is made up of communities, not just people. Having a group like TRIP! perform anti-violence outreach could help create change from within.
If Adam Vaughan and council are not willing to work hard on the problems of the Entertainment District, it is clear they are not actually interested in solving the area’s troubles, but rather in destroying one of the greatest things about this city: world class music.
Photo by smuncky on Flickr.