Bullish City Sets its Sights on the Matador
In a thinly veiled attempt at reclaiming some real estate, city officials are setting their sights on the famed Matador after-hours bar, and are apparently stopping at nothing to ensure that it's leveled to the ground and paved for parking. The city initially approached the Matador's owners with an offer of $800,000 which was quickly turned down by the bar's owners, who are prepared to sell, but want a hell of a lot more than the initial offer.
While the city's prepared to make another offer, they're also ready to strong-arm the bar into closing by expropriating the land if the next one is rejected. All of this for, get this, a mere 20 parking spaces that the city wants to make available for the area.
The country music club has been around for over forty years, and appeals to those who think "last call" is just a suggestion, serving clients from well into 5am Friday to Sunday. Called "a pure piece of Torontonia", and "a club with a difference", since it's owned by grandmother Ann Dunn.
Over the years it's also been host to a number of celebrities, and its iconic signage and atmosphere make it one of the classic bars in Little Italy. Too bad that officials want to see the bar paved over to make space for a paltry 20 parking spaces at the highly coveted (and valued) College & Dovercourt location.
Toronto Parking Authority president Gwyn Thomas claims that they have "...identified that area as high-demand (for parking)," but what kind of precedent does this set for the city, and how does this represent its priorities in terms of the livability of the neighbourhood. Sure, some might argue that more parking for area residents might be more beneficial than a 4am drinking hole, but with traffic already a disaster at best in the city, do we really want to encourage more drivers to get on the road?
In the same vein, let's not kid ourselves; a parking lot in the city of Toronto exists for about as long as a free round of shots on the Matador's bar at 3am. The space is destined to become a condo construction site (with inevitable underground parking), so this move to me reeks of a city desperately looking for ways of generating cash, historic businesses be damned.
As the city continues to face issues like this that any cash-strapped city would, I think it's important to preserve our culture, and more than anything, for city officials to be mindful of how moves like this look to area residents and to the rest of Toronto. It sets a dangerous precedent, one where a city will stop at nothing to salvage some cash to fund the repair of an sinking ship.
Update: A couple of Facebook groups have sprung up shortly after this went live: 'Save The Matador', created by Joe Farrell (who claims in the comments to be Ann Dunn's grandson) and 'Save The Matador! Stop the City from Bulldozing it!' by Michelle Bake. I should re-state, as I did in one of the groups, that the owners want to sell, just not for $800k. So maybe they don't necessarily want saving.
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