toronto bars

New rules and guidelines are on the way for bars and restaurants in Toronto

Big changes could be on the way to your local Toronto watering hole or club thanks to a forthcoming reassessment of age-old licensing and zoning regulations for bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in the city.

Bylaws will be amended and modernized to provide better clarification around certain rules for such businesses, and to crack down on what the city deems "problematic establishments."

The vagueness of such guidelines has long been an issue, especially for certain types of businesses. As City Hall Watcher creator Matt Elliott notes in his latest newsletter, the lines between things like pool halls and bars that simply have some pool tables are the ones that need to be better defined.

"Current business licensing regimes and zoning regulations have not kept pace with the evolution of nighttime culture, and changing business models have blurred the lines between what is commonly taken to be a restaurant, bar, or entertainment venue," reads the new motion from Municpial Licensing and Standards presented to council today.

"There is a need to modernize and clarify the rules to align with evolving business models, and provide flexibility and support for businesses, while ensuring an appropriate level of regulatory oversight to mitigate any potential community nuisance and public safety issues."

Health and safety concerns, as well as the economic impacts the last two years has had, will also be taken into account in the new framework, which will be coming sometime in 2022.

So far, it appears that license classes will be changed to differentiate "lower impact" and "higher impact" spaces that have varied offerings, which will effect licensing conditions based on things like hours of operation, venue capacity and uses, and more.

More flexibility will also hopefully be given to businesses as far as floor plans, activities and seating, while rules across the sector will be made more clear, distinct, cohesive and overall easier to interpret.

And, we know that at least a few specific things will be addressed: expanding nightclub permissions beyond the downtown core, lessening some restrictions on the type of entertainment that can be provided inside restaurant settings, addressing the emerging grey area between restaurants and night clubs and better supporting the music scene.

The move will definitely mean new and existing establishments could either expand or refine their scope and floorplan, and end up looking quite different.

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns at Loveless

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