Liquor Donuts

Kensington Market doesn't want huge new bar Liquor Donuts

The twisted tale of an old supermarket, a global music corporation, a low-budget Canadian horror flick, an experimental art maze and how any of these things are connected continues today as Kensington Market residents get word of Liquor Donuts.

Earlier this month, Toronto learned that a 1950s-era grocery store at 241 Augusta Avenue was being transformed into something called the Fairland Funhouse — an "interactive two-storey adventure world" designed by visual artists and musicians.

Sounds cool, right? I think it will be, but what nobody seemed to know until yesterday is that this artsy funhouse is only temporary.

Some are even calling it a "trojan horse," suggesting that the art maze is being used to sneak a much larger business venture into the adamantly independent (and reluctantly gentrifying) neighbourhood.

A group called Friends of Kensington Market (FOKM) — the same group that fought to keep Walmart out of their community back in 2014 (and won) — surfaced a liquor license application for 241 Augusta on Facebook yesterday.

The application revealed that the space's actual tenant will be a 622-seat licensed bar from a team that we later learned includes Jason Joly, the executive producer of 2014's WolfCop and its sequel, Another WolfCop.

The venue's name and branding stems from a business called Liquor Donuts in the Wolfcop movie series and, according to organizers, will feature "a permanent multi-use gallery space, record pressing and studio/production space in the basement."

Still following? Okay.

Jonah Brotman of the artist collective Monda Forma, which is producing Fairland Funhouse in collaboration with Universal Music Canada, says that Liquor Donuts isn't launching until January of 2019.

"In the meantime, the Liquor Donuts team offered the space indefinitely with the opportunity to soft launch their new concept by opening a pop-up in the funhouse lobby," he says, noting that the permanent Liquor Donuts will feature a 1600-square-foot "Canadiana-themed donut shop/eatery with seats for no more than 75."

"The reason the liquor license request is for 600+ people (standing, not seated) was solely based on AGCO/industry standards based on the square footage of the space (main floor + basement)," explained Brotman by email.

"We definitely do not need that many nor do we think we could fit that many people. It was more about us trying to conform to their standards."

The Friends of Kensington Market aren't convinced.

"The immersive art maze is a trojan horse. The permanent venue is a 622-seat bar called Liquor Donuts. We're being snowed. Object to the liquor license here," wrote FOKM's Dominique Russell on Facebook Thursday. "The file # is 195691."

Residents of the community have been going back and forth with representatives from both Fairland Funhouse and Liquor Donuts ever since.

"This plan is horrendous," wrote one local in the Facebook thread. "I have lived in Kensington for 40+ years. The rowdiness, drunkenness and crime has increased rapidly since many bars, especially on Augusta, have opened in the past few years. We must oppose this."

"This is an inappropriate use of a liquor license, and quite frankly, the city monetizing the area as a club district is killing the very residents and area that hold the oh so sacred 'cool' these people would like some of," wrote another.

"At the end of the day, none of them are around to clean up the puke and blood that their new way to sell Toronto by the pound has generated. The inhabitants of the market DO NOT want this venue."

Brotman and Joly say they consulted the Kensington BIA, Kensington Market Action Committee and Councillor Joe Cressy's office extensively throughout the course of developing the project.

"We are deeply embedded in the community, though we understand its hard to please everyone," says Brotman.

"While we can totally appreciate the concern from Kensington Market residents, we want to reiterate that this space has been derelict for 3+ years, it is being revived as a collaboration between many Toronto artists, and will never become a club or venue that Kensington residents would eventually be opposed to."

Russell countered a similar claim from Joly in response to the Canadian film producer on Facebook.

"While you met with KMAC, you did not at that time mention you would be seeking a 622 person capacity liquor license," she wrote.

"The community has been blind-sided. At the end of the day, you are setting up a 5,000 ft2 licensed establishment with a 622 person capacity in the heart of a mixed residential neighbourhood."

Lead photo by

Liquor Donuts

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