Toronto’s Entertainment District is out of control and new measures need to be taken to recoup some of the cost for policing and maintaining the busy neighbourhood, according to Coun. Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina, Ward 20), chief proponent of a proposed licensing regime that could see a levy imposed on nightclubs that use sidewalks to queue customers.
“The figure that was put out there is that close to 150 police officers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with an overtime bill in excess of $2.3 million is the cost that’s generated by these clubs to the average taxpayer,” Vaughan said.
“I’ve got kids going to bed hungry in this city and I’m supposed to put police on the street to police these idiots. No, sorry, it’s not going to happen. There will be cost recovery built into this regulatory regime and if the press wants to call it a sidewalk tax, I could care less.”
Calls by Metro to the Toronto Police Service to confirm these figures were not immediately returned.
First developed by the King-Spadina Residents Association (KSRA), the so-called “sidewalk tax” plan originally called for a total ban on outdoor nightclub lineups in the area.
“We did not want it applied city-wide to any and all businesses for obvious reasons,” Don Rodbard, co-founder and managing director of the KSRA, said.
“Our community objects to every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and sometimes earlier in the week, (when clubs) take over. I have been forcibly pushed off of sidewalks by club security people. There is a whole difference in tone and attitude between the normal business people in the city of Toronto and the owners and operators and staff of nightclubs.”
While Vaughan argues most “legitimate” businesses operating in the district are onside with his proposal, Peter Gatien, owner of the mega-club Circa at John and Richmond streets, begs to differ.
Gatien is distressed by the fact the proposal only targets nightclubs and not other businesses or events such as local theatres and even the Toronto International Film Festival, which regularly use public sidewalks to queue customers or allow them to smoke.
“People in the Entertainment District, on whatever day, are here to attend restaurants, nightclubs, etc.,” Gatien said. “I doubt very much there’s been any quantity of complaints (from people) finding it horrible to be in this area. I find it very offensive that it’s targeted strictly at nightclubs. Why would everybody else be excluded except us?”
At press time, there was still no firm timeline for a council vote on the initiative.