“It should be somewhere else”: Why waterfront residents want to put the kibosh on Charles Khabouth’s liquor license

“It should be somewhere else”: Why waterfront residents want to put the kibosh on Charles Khabouth’s liquor license

Nothing gets waterfront denizens quite as riled up as the threat of noise reverberating across the surface of the lake. A decade ago, residents lobbied successfully to put a damper on the Docks, an outdoor music venue whose booming bass rattled nerves and windowpanes. Now, a business partnership led by nightclub king Charles Khabouth is trying to bring the party back. Khabouth’s company, Powerhouse Corp., has applied for a new liquor license for the former Docks site, now home to the Rebel nightclub and Cabana Pool Bar. The new license would give Khabouth and his group more latitude to host events. They’d be permitted for up to approximately 15,000 partiers—about half of them indoors, half of them outdoors—though Powerhouse’s lawyer has said that his clients have no intention of holding events that large. Powerhouse is also trying to do away with some strict license conditions that limit outdoor concerts and noise levels.

Powerhouse’s liquor license application was up for debate this week at the License Appeal Tribunal, a provincial panel that adjudicates these types of disputes. (The proceedings will continue next week.) Who shows up at 9 a.m. on a weekday to put the screws to a nightclub owner, and why are they so concerned? We found out:

Ulla Colgrass

78, author, waterfront resident

Why are you against the club’s license?
“I’ve followed this site for many years, starting when it was the Docks. It’s very large and very noisy. I just heard someone saying that they heard the Rebel until 9 a.m. from the Islands. Soon there will be thousands of people living and working close to the club. It should be somewhere else.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“It could be in Downsview, or in Scarborough. Scarborough always says they don’t have enough entertainment. Move it there.”

Lynn Robinson

“Old enough to have spare time to represent the community,” Retired analyst, 47-year resident of the Toronto Islands

Why are you against the club’s license?
“I think that having a huge nightclub on the edge on the harbour is a bad idea for anyone who lives or visits there. It’s an extremely sensitive soundscape. Anyone who participates in entertainment or is a source of music on the harbour simply has to be a good neighbour, and sound has to be carefully managed and mitigated there, because it can dominate everything that everybody else does. This particular place has great potential to dominate the harbour.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“Well, that’s a wonderful question, and I don’t have an answer. If you put 7,500 people outside in Toronto, it’s very hard to figure out how to mitigate that noise so that it doesn’t drive residents crazy. This is a Toronto-wide question and we don’t have an answer yet. But absolutely, for sure, not on the water.”

Cathy Macdonald

75, Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations representative

Why are you against the club’s license?
“We’re objecting to this proposal. Our members are representative of people who come to the harbour area for recreational activities. I’m also a member of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and have a boat on the waterfront. Many of our residents stay on their boats overnight. We feel that noise levels from this club will seriously interfere with their enjoyment of the activities they come to the waterfront for.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“It needs to be accessible by public transit. The SkyDome and the ACC have huge numbers of people going there, but they have excellent public transit and that makes it work.”

Ron Jenkins

58, marketer from Mississauga

Why are you against the club’s license?
“I’m a boater. I sail on boats from clubs here in Toronto. My objection is primarily a noise objection, although as a boater I’ve seen lots of fast powerboats docking along the club’s break wall, and I think there is a concern too about alcohol use on the water.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“I think maybe you’d have to divide it into two types of club. An indoor club of that size could be located anywhere with access to transit, but as an outdoor facility on an ongoing basis, I think you’d have to locate it away from other incompatible uses.”

Jane Robinson

65, retired IT professional and representative of the Gooderham and Worts Neighbourhood Association, from the Distillery District

Why are you against the club’s license?
“I’m not happy, not happy at all. It’s too big, it’s going to cause a lot of problems with traffic. We’ve got two new towers in the area, and they’ve had some issues in the past—noise issues with the bass.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“My only thought is Downsview. I’m not sure. I heard someone else say Scarborough, but Scarborough doesn’t have the transit, so I think that since Downsview has the access, it would be more appropriate.”

Mary Hellen Spence

Retired executive and representative of the Toronto Noise Coalition, from midtown

Why are you against the club’s license?
“The application is for a venue for 15,000 people. The city of Toronto is attempting to bring residents to live downtown and enjoy the waterfront, so I think this one-purpose use is going to come into conflict with that goal. It’s just too big for where it’s located.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“I think that’s a planning issue. The city is developing a secondary plan for downtown. This is the kind of issue they should be dealing with.”

Cristina Panneton

57, retired finance worker from Hoggs Hollow

Why are you against the club’s license?
“When I saw this nightclub proposal, initially I thought, ‘Why would I care? I live in Hoggs Hollow.’ Well, if you look at the pattern of these places, similar to condo towers, they’ve been migrating north, and the logistics tell me that whole patterns of social behaviour will start to migrate north. We’re worried that we’re going to start getting these nightclubs in our area. I think these people need to be watched. I think there’s an underbelly of crime and a lot of other things going on.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“Well, I think we have places like Ontario Place that are already established.”

Kate Shepherd

61, event coordinator from the Toronto Islands

Why are you against the club’s license?
“I was part of the first big hearing about the Docks nightclub, more than ten years ago. It had a huge impact on my family life and my actual house. I’m strongly convinced it’s not the owner; it’s the location. This is all about noise and water.”

Well, where should clubs go, then?
“I have three kids, all under 25. They like music. I love music, but I don’t believe in huge things. I think small venues work. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a huge venue. I think crime rates go up, drug abuse goes up. I think it’s taxing on the city and services like police and fire.”