Toronto's war on fun rears its head at the Pinball Cafe
When news came yesterday that Toronto's new Pinball Cafe was experiencing licensing difficulties, my first concern was for the kids. How could a gift such as this be taken away so quickly without doing irreparable damage to the youth of Parkdale? As it turns out, we probably won't know because the cafe has no plans to close its doors.
Despite a Toronto Life report that Toronto's first Pinball Cafe had its business license revoked, owner Jason Hazzard confirms that no such recall ever took place. Not everything, however, is peachy keen at the cafe. While the retro hub remains up and running, Toronto's war against fun, it would seem, has reared its head.
The issue, according to Hazzard, has to do with a dated zoning bylaw that disallows a "place of amusement" to operate with two or more pinball machines in the Parkdale area. A throwback to the days of Toronto the Good, the exact regulation, Zoning By-Law No. 438-86, specifies that, "only 2 pinball or other mechanical or electronic game machines is permitted in a 'restaurant' or a 'place of amusement.'"
The cafe applied for a business license back in January, and has now applied for a zoning variance, which could take months to be reviewed. Bruce Hawkins, senior communications coordinator at the City of Toronto, confirmed that a refusal letter was sent to the cafe in early February as response to its January application. Despite its complications, Jason is determined to keep the Pinball Cafe running through its paperwork negotiations with the City of Toronto.
"This is not uncommon; most small businesses goes through these sorts of challenges," he says. "We're not doing anything that's putting anyone at risk."
While the cafe is currently operating without a license, Hazzard remains determined to stay open six days a week. "In the absolute worst case scenario, [the City] will say I'm operating without a valid license and they'll fine me," Jason says. "And I'll put it in a folder, give it to my lawyer, and keep my doors open."
Photo by Morris Lum