Ask the Bartender: Gentrification Edition
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Ask the Bartender: Gentrification Edition

Ask the Bartender is Torontoist’s new advice column. Do you have a question or problem for Eva to solve? Email [email protected].

Hi Eva,

It’s obvious that when you order a drink from a bar, you give a $1 tip. If you order two drinks at once, for a date, say, are you expected to give $2 tip? Or are bartenders just expecting $1 per bar trip?


Dear Dave,

This is a less uninteresting question than it seems, because it’s obvious from the way you phrase it that you’re unsure about what you’re tipping for. Presumably you don’t have the same uncertainty about the difference between tipping for a solo meal, versus tipping on dinner for you and a date—do you tip for your date’s meal as well? (Well, I’m hoping you’re not confused about this.) This is because when you tip on food, or a combination of food and drink, you know you’re tipping based on the bill total. But what are you tipping for with just drinks? If you’re not tipping based on the bill total, you—or perhaps your reptilian brain—may think, “Okay, one bill, one dollar. Sweet.” In fact, typically, when tipping on alcoholic beverages, we as customers are tipping per drink, and we’re tipping a fixed amount (often $1, or more, depending on the complexity and cost of the drink in question), rather than a percentage.

Why is that? 1) Our laziness: We like to have things done for us. When you are paying someone else to do something for you—such as pour a glass of wine, fetch and open a beer bottle, physically intimidate your debtors, mix and garnish a gin and tonic—you pay per task, or service rendered, just as you would compensate a hairdresser for two separate haircuts, or pay a courier to deliver two discrete parcels. 2) Our laziness: people seem to find basic arithmetic difficult, especially when all those pesky little numbers are shimmying around in a booze-soaked riverdance. Going with the traditional $1 per drink rather than figuring out a percentage neatly circumvents this issue.

I’m part of the gentrifying class that’s been moving into Bloordale or Bloorcourt or DoverBloor (I’m not sure of the name). Though I’ve lived here for many years, and like to think I’m, ahem, not a gentrifier, I’m of the same age and economic bracket and white skin as all the others moving in. What are some things I can do to contribute positively in some way to the lives of those who will be affected most by this gentrification? 

Part two of the question: While I’m critical of gentrification, I realize also I’m doing nothing to stop it—I frequent the new hip bars, and my presence in this neighbourhood is why real estate agents are salivating. What positive things can I do? Shop at all the original shops from this hood that are at risk of being forced out?  


Dear Gillian,

You’re not a “gentrifier,” yet you feel you’re indistinguishable from all the other gentrifiers who are negatively affecting the lives of those of your neighbours that don’t share your ethnic and socioeconomic background? (I will admit that I find your perception that all gentrifiers in your ‘hood have “white skin” somewhat exceptionable.) Furthermore, real estate agents are supposedly “salivating” because of your presence in the neighbourhood—you’re a catalyst for gentrification! The first thing you probably need to do is assess what it is about gentrification that you dislike so much, because based on your description, you sound like you’re the poster-child for it. Maybe you’re a closet gentrification fan, and it’s simply this fact that you need to come to terms with?

Should it turn out that you are indeed deeply committed to preventing the hordes of entitled fellow-gentrifiers from ruining your mixed-income neighbourhood, I suggest reaching out to your representatives at City Council and Queen’s Park, to advocate on your behalf for more affordable housing options in your community. Tell them that rent geared to income housing is important to you, and that you support inclusionary zoning measures requiring 20 per cent of any new development to be affordable units. If you’re in the provincial riding of Davenport, your MPP is Cristina Martins, who’s familiar with affordable housing issues; your City Councillor Ana Bailão has collaborated extensively with community members and the City in order to address the affordable housing crisis in Toronto.

Start campaigning for a new community-based transitional residential facility (halfway house) in your community. While, unfortunately, the presence of a halfway house in your neighbourhood will not lower the price of real estate, it will definitely help to maintain a certain level of economic diversity. You’ll need a letter of intent from the Correctional Services of Canada, the support of your City Councillor and local police, and an appropriately zoned property.

Although the federal Conservatives did away with accelerated parole, it’s possible that under His Right Unicorn-and-Rainbowness PM Trudeau II there will be a shift in this attitude, and the result will be an increased demand for halfway housing. Luckily, you’re sandwiched between two neighbourhoods that house some of the highest numbers of sex offenders in the city, so it may be relatively easy to propose also opening up a facility for such individuals nearby. And, if you’re worried that immigrant communities are getting pushed out by skyrocketing rents, this is the perfect time to consider sponsoring and hosting a Syrian refugee family, and convincing your wealthy neighbours to do the same.

Next, go out and make some new friends. Go to Sistering, or to West Neighbourhood House, and volunteer. Maybe you or another gentrifier you know have a spare room to rent out, and the perfect new roommate has been just down the road this whole time. There are currently 10 licensed rooming houses in Ward 18; go meet some of the residents. Hit up the nearest boozecan—Bloor Street’s The Happy Cup, for example—and get to know the regulars. They’ve been Bloorcourting for longer than you, and might give you some insight into preserving the neighbourhood’s true character.

Finally, if you have some spare capital to invest (presumably, as someone who incites Pavlovian responses from local real estate agents, you do), consider participating in a land trust venture like the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, which works to acquire land in the area and then ensure it’s used to meet community needs. Even if you don’t have cash to spare, volunteering at a land trust would be a great place to start.

My husband and I rent a floor in a house, with other tenants above and below us. Recently, my downstairs neighbour tried to use his deep-fryer, and instead started a kitchen fire that pretty much destroyed his kitchen and smoked us out of our unit for three days. 

There will be no lasting damage to our apartment or our stuff, but I’m finding myself super annoyed and scared—the idea of dying in a house fire because someone fell asleep while cooking is terrifying! I’m also pregnant, and while everything is making anxious these days, this fire (and the smoke inhalation that went with it) really freaked us out.

My question to you: how mad/scared/anxious should I reasonably be? And what do I do with those feelings?

Smokette the Bear

Dear Smokette,

Of course you’re pissed off and terrified. This is entirely reasonable, given the situation; according to the City of Toronto’s fire safety page (which your neighbour should probably check out), residential cooking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. So, you’re absolutely right to feel the way you do, and it’s a good idea to ask your landlord to go over fire prevention strategies with Maestro Deep Fried Arson as a precautionary measure. As for what to do with your feelings, I am wondering if part of what you’re looking for is an apology. Presumably you would be less mad if your neighbour had, for starters, meaningfully apologized for what happened. If you and your neighbour can (re)build a relationship involving some level of trust, your fear and anxiety about potential future conflagrations might lessen.

If this is not an option, I suggest smashing things. Since you’re pregnant, and I don’t want to encourage you to deal with broken glass, your best option here is to buy large bags of ice from your local convenience store. The pleasantly destructive crack as you hurl them one by one onto your kitchen floor should be satisfyingly cathartic, and your neighbour just below will be sure to be right there in the moment with you, whether he likes it or not. This approach has the added benefit of being 100 per cent flame retardant. Good luck!