LGBT community concerned about possible crackdown on restaurants that also operate as nightclubs

LGBT community concerned about possible crackdown on restaurants that also operate as nightclubs

LGBT business owners are worried about a city staff report that could lead to a crackdown on spaces that operate as nightclubs in the evening, even though they're licensed only as restaurants.

Right now, there are some areas in the city that are zoned for nightclubs — for example, the Entertainment District — but in most of downtown Toronto nightclubs are not allowed.

Some LGBT restaurateurs say many areas downtown are dangerous places for people in their community to go clubbing.  One LGBT businessperson said that's why he operates his restaurant as a club at night. 

"A fifth of the square footage, we remove the tables and chairs and it becomes a dance floor," he said.

CBC Toronto has agreed not to identify the owner because his space is licensed as a restaurant, not as a nightclub, and he now has reason to worry about the future of his business.

"If dance spaces are limited to the Entertainment District, that area of town is not a safe place for many people. Obviously not LGBTQ people," he said.

Right now restaurants that turn into nightclubs are under city hall's microscope.

Coun. Jim Karygiannis, the co-chair of the city's licensing and standards committee, has asked the licensing department to present a report later this month detailing how to go about either licensng restaurants that convert to nighclubs in the evening, "or if we can't licence them, how to shut them down."

Karygiannis says his main concern is safety — unregulated spaces that are unsuited to operating as nightclubs and that are overcrowded or might have fire hazards.

"Overseas, there's been accidents where people going to nightclubs that are not properly licensed. Some of these accidents are fatal."

The councillor also says he's concerned for the residents living in these areas.

"When you buy a condo in that area and all of a sudden it turns into a nightclub there's noise. These things don't let out until three o'clock in the morning."

Popular areas not zoned for nightclubs 

Before a business can get a nightclub licence, the property has to be zoned for that, lawyer Noel Gerry told CBC Toronto. 

"The problem is most of downtown is in fact not zoned for that type of establishment. So popular areas such as College Street West and the Church Street Village area, generally do not have zoning for a nightclub," said Gerry.

The chair of the Church-Wellesley BIA, Kelly Kyle, says the businesses in her area provide a safe and accessible place for the LGBTQ community to enjoy the nightlife.

"I think that they should be allowed to be creative in order to make a living and serve the community at large in a good way," said Kyle.

Karygiannis says once the report comes back, there can be a discussion on whether it's time to open up more nightclub zones or limit the activity to the Entertainment District.

Meantime, the business owner who asked not to be identified remains hopeful that the rules will change to and Toronto will become "a city that actually celebrates diversity, celebrates culture, has space for the arts and allows people to congregate where they live ..."