Can the Brunswick House and its neighbours get along?
I arrive at the Brunswick House shortly before last call. It's a Thursday night, and the place is packed. A mass of sweaty bodies dance to the latest top 40 song, beers and cocktails in hand. Outside, two girls are sharing a cigarette. One of them lets out a string of expletives so long, it would make your mother's ears bleed.
As last call finishes up, people start to stream out of the heavy wooden doors. Some run for cabs, others totter drunkenly down the street. One girl declares loudly that she "totally has to have poutine or she'll die." I watch as a group of young men make their way down Brunswick Ave, yelling randomly. Their voices echo off the darkened homes, one of which has a bike with an attached baby seat out front.
A favourite haunt of nearby University of Toronto students, the Brunswick House has had a long, rocky relationship with its Annex neighbours. Patrons of the 'Brunny' (as it is lovingly called) have been accused of a variety of offences (among them - urinating on lawns, fighting and the occasional breaking of nearby store windows) that have left its neighbours irked.
But now the bar, along with the Bloor- Annex BIA, is hoping to change that. The Brunswick House is hiring paid duty officers on its busiest nights to keep the peace (and quiet) in the hope of improving neighbourly relations, and lowering the number of police calls to the area.
Brian Burchell, treasurer of the Bloor-Annex BIA, said the idea started back in August at the BIA's annual town hall when community members voiced their issues with the bar. "They [The Brunswick House] were getting frequent flyer points for how many times police were called to that address," said Burchell. So he decided to do something about it.
Burchell got in touch with the bar's owner, Abbis Mahmoud, and spoke with him about hiring paid duty officers. "Abbis was very responsive to these concerns, he really stepped up to the plate," he said.
Burchell and Mahmoud contacted 14 division, and they recommended hiring one sergeant and four constables. However, the officers didn't come cheap. A sergeant runs about $74 an hour, while one constable costs $65, all paid for out of the bar's pocket.
The officers have been in place about a month now. According to Det. Sgt. Brian Kelly of 14 division, the ramped up police presence is working. "We haven't had any problems," said Kelly. According to Kelly, police calls to the area have dropped, because officers are already on site to deal with any problems that arise.
Burchell says the Brunswick House has a worse reputation than it deserves. "If you're going to be serving 19-year-olds a lot of beer, it's not a bad style of bar. The question is how we manage it."
Will hiring paid duty officers help keep the peace? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Writing by Katie O'Connor