The city is making it impossible for new restaurants to get liquor licenses
Thanks to an ongoing squabble between city council and the provincial government—and some related municipal-policy maneuvers—the stumbling blocks facing new restaurant owners in Toronto appear to have morphed into one giant, impenetrable bulwark. Here’s what happened.
Earlier this year, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario decided that it was no longer going to enforce certain conditions the city had attached to some liquor licenses. Those extra conditions, which had historically been monitored and enforced by provincial inspectors, included requirements to keep sidewalks clean and noise levels down—i.e. stuff the city understandably cares about, but would rather not have to pay for. Last month, city council retaliated against the province’s new laissez-faire approach by requiring businesses to supplement new liquor-license applications with letters of support from their area MPPs. It was, in effect, a passive-aggressive way of continuing to hold the province accountable for the consequences of liquor licenses.
What the city doesn’t seem to have anticipated, though, is the following Catch-22: according to the Star, MPPs’ integrity obligations prevent them from signing those letters of reference during provincial election periods. What’s more, the provincial Office of the Integrity Commissioner has advised MPPs that even after the election is over, they should avoid signing off on businesses they haven’t personally visited—which, given the growing restaurant populations in some areas, could potentially turn reference-letter writing into an MPP’s full-time job.
All this means that restaurants, bars and other businesses that want to begin serving alcohol are basically out of luck, at least for now. “I anticipated this process to be difficult and expensive, and to have to comply with a number of regulations that the city puts in place in order to operate responsibly,” said Jessica Leeder, owner of The Ten Spot spa in the Beach, talking to the Star. “What I did not expect is to encounter a problem that no hard work can amend.” It’s a big problem for bars, obviously, and also for restaurants, which rely on the standard 300-plus-per-cent markup on booze to turn profits.
So, the key takeaway for Toronto entrepreneurs: your livelihoods are being threatened for the noble cause of sticking it to the province.
2 thoughts on “The city is making it impossible for new restaurants to get liquor licenses”
You had me until ” 300-plus-per-cent markup on booze”. !!! Glad I don’t drink.
So in other words city council as spearheaded by Perks, is using extortion – no new businesses with liquor licenses unless city council gets what it wants. The AGCO rightly told the city they would no longer enforce absurd city councillor imposed conditions on liquor licenses. These added conditions are either covered by city bylaws or are so asinine that they should never have seen the light of day (no dance floor allowed, no more than two video games, no cover charge allowed, etc). Bylaw issues such as noise, litter etc are the domain of the city and the city can deal with it themselves.
The AGCO has more than enough on its plate enforcing the LLA (Liquor License Act). That the city demand that the AGCO and by extension the province enforce bylaws that the city itself is too inept to enforce, is galling.
Gord Perks and Mike Layton’s sledgehammer approach to social engineering has got to stop – their small mindedness is exactly what holds Toronto back from becoming a great city.
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