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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Dale Duncan at City Hall: May 10

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You can dance if you want to (but take your aggression inside)

Adam Vaughan is not trying to ban dancing in the city. He’s quick to point this out, lest anyone jump to conclusions. “I’m trying to make the entertainment district more entertaining,” he tells me.

Nightclub owners may feel otherwise. Last week, the steadfast Trinity-Spadina councillor, determined to deal with the growing violence, vandalism, noise volume and overall tomfoolery that takes place when nearly 60,000 drunk club-goers empty out onto the streets of the entertainment district after last call every weekend night, asked staff to look into charging club owners a fee for the right to use sidewalk space for lineups. He’d also like to see a report on the possibility of limiting the number of clubs in the area altogether — one method, he said, that could limit the general mayhem the neighbourhood experiences at night.

Having such a high concentration of large nightclubs in one area creates “a dynamic that we know is volatile and dangerous,” Vaughan says. When it was suggested that establishments be forced to get their revved-up patrons to await entry to the clubs inside the doors instead of along the street, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission declared that it would be much too dangerous to pack all those un-frisked crowds indoors. Better to pack those people on public sidewalks than force club owners to manage the crowds that are flocking to their doors! The city can pay for the police, and other businesses in the area can pay for the damage inflicted on their property. The people living nearby (yes, they do exist — see the King-Spadina Residents Association) can cope with the noise. According to Vaughan, many residents choose to remain at home at night rather than deal with the intimidating crowds.

“I want to tackle the concentration issue and dilute the impact,” says Vaughan. But planning staff say there’s little their department can do to help mitigate the problem. Sure, there are other tools that can be used to calm the rowdy dancers — limiting the number of liquor licences permitted in the area is one; charging club owners fees for the cost of policing is another — but Vaughan says he wants to look at all the tools available. The planning department’s resistance to the idea is perplexing. They do, after all, limit the number of clubs elsewhere, so why not here?

Staff will now grudgingly spend the next six months developing a report on the possibilities of capping the number of “licensed entertainment facilities” and the economic implications of doing so, something they should have done over the last two years when a temporary moratorium on nightclubs in the area was in place. The moratorium was lifted at the beginning of May, and aside from a section on entertainment establishments included in a recent King-Spadina Secondary Plan review, no new policies have been put in place. So much for being efficient.



  1. How about relocating Clubland to under the Pearson approaches? It’s not like they’ll even hear the jet noise after all.

  2. i thought that clubland was the city’s own creation! isn’t there a policy of refusing permits for nighclubs outside of that defined area? i thought the idea was to create an “entertainment district” and keep the “tomfoolery” in one spot.

  3. Notice to the resident association at King and Spadina:

    If you don’t want noise, perhaps living downtown in Canada’s biggest city isn’t the wisest decision.

    These are the same type of people who buy condos next to a factory or water treatment plant and then scream bloody murder when the plant’s operations dare to affect them.

    Toronto’s NIMBYs get better and better all the time.

  4. mkm, you’re right, clubland does exist in part because clubs aren’t allowed elsewhere in the city, but the area was named the entertainment district for the theatres, restaurants and the skydome. The massive number of clubs came later. I think keeping the tomfoolery in one spot was part of the idea, but as Adam Vaughan would say, too much of one type of thing in one area is never a good thing, whether it’s condos, businesses, or bars. He’s all about mixed-use.

  5. So Vaughan decreases the volume of clubbers in the Entertainment District by something significant like 10,000-20,000 per weekend night. Then what? If Vaughan thinks they’ll spread themselves equally across entertainment venues in the city so no one notices an increase of party-goers in their neighbourhood he’s off his rocker.

    Vaughan’s plan isn’t one with a great deal of foresight, he just wants the kids off his lawn.

  6. ADAM (the commenter above) ^

    This is about hooliganism, not decreasing the amount of people. Its about showing respect for the area, too. Its about a plannig department that is understaffed and a part of town that is vital to the city’s character that shouldn’t be a place where all people can’t go to at night.

    Vaughan’s plan does not lack foresight — its the fact that the city doesn’t have a plan for the nightclubs, etc. *Staff* are the ones without proper foresight. Or more importantly, the previous councillor and her staff lacked any sophisticated planning knowledge.

    Your disdain for Vaughan shines through in your comment and it looks like it clouds your judgement on this topic.

  7. Hinely,

    I’ve got to admit, I’m not a expert on the area, but at the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee meeting, Vaughan argued that people were living there before the nightclubs moved in.

    Also, this isn’t just about noise. The biggest issue here is violence and that shouldn’t be ignored — nobody deserves that in their back yards. If releasing nearly 60,000 drunk party-goers onto a fews blocks downtown at 2:00am sets the scene for increased violence and vandalism (as vaughan argues) then perhaps something should be done about it.

  8. Actually, Mitch, Vaughan has repeatedly said that he wants to reduce the number of clubs in the area. And, ultimately, closing clubs means reducing the number of people who are visiting Clubland.

    But let’s just say that Vaughan does close down clubs that are being run irresponsibly. I don’t have any objection to that. However, what I do object to is starting a club-closing spree without first bringing forward a plan for how to cope with the new hotspots that are sure to flare up in other parts of the city. That’s where there’s no foresight.

    So until a contingency plan is in place for other potential hotspots, the least destructive place to have clubs is in the Entertainment District.

    Also, so far as I can tell, reports continually indicate that line-ups aren’t what turn people to hooligans, it’s the number of intoxicated people on the streets at one time after last call. So if bars are serving to excess then this is an alcohol liscensing issue that the City has no jurisdiction over rather than a problem that can be solved through a new tax.

  9. Vaughan actually wants to decrease the number of clubs in the city, period. This clearly amounts to a war on nightlife, although this is not mentioned much in the media coverage of his proposed “sidewalk tax”.

    As mentioned elsewhere, clubland is one of the only places where youth culture is permitted in spades, and further marginalizing dance music actually IS akin to the anti-dancing Cabaret Laws in New York City, the parallel Mr. Vaughan is trying so hard to avoid.

    Paired with his goal to ban the sale of markers to minors, his statement that the EnDis is “full of hooligan 20 year-olds” proves that even for a relatively young politician, the man is ageist.

    Nightlife is my life and I will defend its right to exist.

  10. bracken – you throw good events but stay away from commentary. good luck protecting every jock’s right to start a fight in the middle of Richmond at 3am and then puke and piss on the buildings that people live in. And keep fighting our consumer culture by  not supporting a “sidewalk tax” on private businesses that use public space as they see fit.

  11. We live north of the district, and our lawns, lanes and sidewalks are full of empties, vomit and we too are tired of cleaning up. Some of us have lived here for a few decades before the clubs. Actuallly we thought the Skydome was going to produce the nuisance – but it turns out it is the clubs. And the cost of policing these “hooligans” is getting to be absurd.

    Vaughan is doing the right thing.

  12. Kevin> If there was a war on youth culture, or nightlife in general, i’d be with you — but Clubland as is is an extremely violent place. The comparisons to NYC’s cabaret laws is a straw man — there is no way dance music is being marginalized in Toronto (with exceptions, like the Cherry Beach parties — but en mass, there is no attack on the culture). Fantino tried, but I kept going to good parties post 2000/2001, when he attacked.

    It’s a vulgar, violent and nasty scene down there on weekend nights — it largely isn’t reasonable partying, and I don’t think you’d want to go to most of it. There have always been some gem clubs down there, or fantastic night, or good DJ one-offs, but most of it is mediocre crap that supports this violent scene.
    In 15 years of experiencing nightlife and dance music in Toronto, Detroit and a whole bunch of other cities in NA and Europe (I tend not to see city’s I’m visiting until after 12noon because the nights are more exciting), I’m very comfortable in saying you’re defending the wrong stuff here.

  13. Dale said

    “I’ve got to admit, I’m not a expert on the area, but at the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee meeting, Vaughan argued that people were living there before the nightclubs moved in. ”

    Thanks Dale. If that’s true, i agree that those who’ve lived in the area from the time before the development of all the clubs have a valid complaint. However, there a great number of new condos and as far i’m concerned those people should know very well to expect noise.

  14. Yeah, I’m not really sure what fist fights, sexual assaults, and alcohol poisoning in and outside 19+ establishments has to do with “youth culture.”

    But I’m also not really sure what such a reactionary proposal would actually do about the problem. If there are too many people getting too drunk in one area, it’s superficially an issue of zoning, liquor licensing, and capacity – and more essentially an issue of culture. Taxation should be a non-starter.

  15. Susan>
    Please respect Kevin’s right to an opinion, and the right to voice it. In case you didn’t notice, that’s the basic premise of the democratic society we’re advocating here with this whole “public space” thing.


    BTW, is it the businesses that are “using the sidewalks as they see fit” or clubgoing members of the public? Who’s to say that standing in line on the sidewalk is any less valid a use of public space than walking on the sidewalk, smoking on the sidewalk, or talking on the sidewalk?

    If lineups are the issue, what would make more sense than a tax is a requirement for clubs to get permits for the space that their line-ups take up–just like the permits that restaurants and bars require for their sidewalk patios. The cost of the permit would be proportionate to the amount of space the club requires for its line, and they would be required to turn away clubgoers once the line was at capacity, encouraging clubs to get clubgoers inside faster.

    This doesn’t address the perceived fighting, puking or peeing issue, but neither do the other measures that have been proposed.

  16. That said (what I said above), the moment residents start objecting to the sounds of a healthy and robust night life downtown — in that NIMBYish sort of way — they’d lose all my support.

  17. Melissa —- sharing my opinion is my right too. I can call him out when he’s making immature, silly statement, just like you called me out. Please don’t lecture.

    It was only Bracken who said it was a “sidewalk tax”. I think Vaughan has proposed a permit system as well, but I’m not 100% on that.

    To clarify: when I wrote “using the sidewalks as they see fit” I meant businesses. I called Kevin out because he has been vocal about consumer culture on Torontoist but seems to want to protect clubs because he goes to them, instead of realizing that public space is being monopolized by businesses so they can show their club is in high demand by lining up people outside on public property. The businesses also prote4ct and subvetly promote a lot of illegal bullshit. I know the clubs to go to in order to get coke, E, speed, whatever. Mix that with beer and hard liquor and no wonder the place stinks like puke during daylight hours.

    Hypocricy is sometimes a symptom of newly engaged youth (adults do it as well, I realize). Calling him out on these issues will make him think twice before posting his thoughts — he might not change them, but he might make better arguments.

  18. Shawn>

    I’m kind of interested what this theoretical “moment” of yours would sound like.

    As far as I’m concerned, defining “the sounds of a healthy and robust downtown” would be just a wee bit difficult and complicated, and determining the point at which the sounds of Clubland differ from those “healthy downtown” sounds, would also be a bit a bit problematic.

    Similarly, defining what constitutes a “legitimate” complaint by a resident vs a “NIMBYish” complaint would also be a bit difficult to determine.

    I wish I had that measuring stick of yours that with its clearly defined social indicators and obliviousness to the concept of subjectivity…it must be nice to see the city in glorious black and white instead of this confused mess of greys.

  19. Susan>

    I don’t agree with you, but I’m walking away from the argument. Enough angry procrastinating…time to do some work.

  20. Melissa — I don’t want to speak for Shawn, but I think he comments indicate a knowledge of greys and not black and white. He has two comments that show differing opinions which would indicate greyness. I think you are seeing things in black and white.

    Keep trying to eat the Left! You’re doing a great job at it.

  21. melissa> I bow and acquiesce to your condescension and keyboard anger, and will pull up Ebony and Ivory on my iTunes.


  22. If we can’t dance, we don’t want your public space revolution.

    The hoi polloi of Spacing always seems very forgiving when it comes to Adam V.’s dumber pronouncements.

    Will there also be a sidewalk tax on the lineups of yuppies at film festivals? Perhaps a tax on sports tickets to pay for the obnoxious behaviour of fans during playoffs… Not to mention the abuse of public space by cyclists riding on the sidewalks 😉

    If council wants to limit the nightlife in clubland, then they have to open up zoning to allow it to thrive in other parts of town. They can’t have it both ways. Part of the reason this area is volatile (and I think that assessment is exaggerated) is that they’ve crammed all of those horned-up people into one tiny zone.

  23. Hoi polloi can’t stand cyclists on sidewalks, or those that breeze by open streetcar doors. To suggest otherwise means you haven’t been paying attention.

    “Horned-up,” however, is a hellofaphrase that I haven’t heard for years. Nice.

  24. Yunno, I kinda wish the city would spend more time enforcing its current regulations before trying to regulate more problems away. It’s 6:30am on a Saturday, and I was just outside yelling at the construction workers outside my building for waking me up at 6am with their construction noise, when TO’s noise by-law prohibits such noise until the generous time of 7am. And it didn’t work, because I can still hear them out there. It bothers me that I have to be the regulator of something like that because a) I’m up now, and b) how many other people in the city are suffering through the same thing without knowing (or wanting to make a nuisance of themselves by asserting) their rights? I’ve suffered a heck of a lot of noise already for the sake of this Salvation Army Harbour Light Centre building, and all I can say is, no wonder the city is full of NIMBYs if this is the kind of treatment people are used to getting. BTW, the other noise that regularly wakes me up these days is the sound of the homeless people digging through the trash outside my building each and every night–a direct result of the gentrification in the neighbourhood.

    I have no doubt that the city is changing, I just hope that we can find ways to deal with these changes that are more respectful of the city’s diversity. This current round of self-righteous finger pointing and judging who has the more legitimate right to the city’s spaces is not a good sign in my opinion.

    Oh good, the concrete mixer has started up. Happy happy, joy joy.

  25. “BTW, the other noise that regularly wakes me up these days is the sound of the homeless people digging through the trash outside my building each and every night–a direct result of the gentrification in the neighbourhood. ”

    That’s quite a bold statement – that gentrification directly was the cause of homelessness in your neighbourhood. In your own words “it must be nice to see the city in glorious black and white instead of this confused mess of greys”.

    If you don’t like noise in general, you may want to consider moving to cottage country. If the construction workers don’t have a exemption to the noise by-law (which is possible) if they’re working on infrastructure, you should call your councillor who is the only person who could likely get someone over there pronto to help you. I don’t think Matt Blackett or any of the posters here have a magic wand to make the noise stop.

  26. Hinley>

    You seem to have misunderstood me. I didn’t say that gentrification was the cause of homelessness. I said that gentrification was the cause of people regularly digging through my garbage. Forgive me for speaking about something I’ve actually got some first-hand knowledge about. I’ve been living in the same neighbourhood for 15 years now, and in the same apartment for 8 years. My neighbourhood has the highest concentration of shelters and services for the homeless population in the city, and my windows overlook some of them. The homeless people in this neighbourhood are my neighbours, and most of them have been my neighbours for at least a decade or more. Gentrification is a recent phenomenon in my neck of the woods, and one particular effect is unmistakable: it is causing this mobile population to move in subtle ways. There has been a change in the specific places people frequent, the hours that they are frequented, and the activities that take place in these areas. I’ve witnessed a lot of these changes, one of which is the fact that the garbage cans outside my window are rummaged through 24-7.

    Moving away to a less noisy area is a luxury that many of my neighbours don’t have. I live in a Toronto Housing Company apartment, where 20% of the residents are in subsidized housing. They are the lucky few who have made it off of waiting lists and into housing and now they are lucky to live next to a construction site and in a neighbourhood where the cost of living is skyrocketing. Although I live in a market rent apartment, the rent is cheap by TO standards, and so I can’t really afford to move either. I also don’t WANT to move—this is my community, these are my friends and neighbours. I thought we were trying to CREATE community in the city, but instead you’re encouraging me to abandon what already exists. All that many people have here is this community and the social networks they have developed. You take that away from people, and then what?

    And for the record, I’ve lived in the the thick of downtown for 15 years now, and city noise (streetcars, sirens, drunk students, drunk homeless people, drug dealing, car honking, moving truck beeping, kids playing ball, marching bands, Salvation Army outdoor singalongs, road repair, and general construction noise, ETC) is something I can tolerate, thank you very much. What I CAN’T tolerate is jackhammering outside my window 24 hours a day, and fortunately the city agrees with me, that’s why we have the noise By-law.

    Anyway, I initially went into that story of mine in an attempt to highlight the fact that all neighbourhoods share their space with people doing things that they find annoying. You don’t hear about it very often because most people do a great job at tolerating it. When this activity becomes intolerable, we need to address the issue in a way that is sensitive to and respectful of ALL the people involved. Labelling all Clubgoers “drunken hooligans” is about as equitable and effective as labeling all homeless people “psychotic theives,” or all construction workers “disrespectful noisemongerers.” As I said before, I’m hoping we can find ways to deal with the changes we’re experiencing in the city that are more respectful of the city’s diversity and EVERYONE’S rights to space.

  27. This city is killing itself with a million little paper cuts.

    It’s anti-business/pro-condo policies are actually driving the economy out of the 416 and into the 905 and increasingly to vancouver and montreal. Is it any wonder that the fashion centre of canada is rapidly moving to vancover and the music and media centre is splitting between vancouver and montreal?

    Toronto is scaring away it’s free spirits and many businesses with it’s continuous over regulation and over taxation.

    To quote the Joker… THIS TOWN NEEDS AN ENIMA!