4 am last call toronto

Toronto bars are starting to bring back 4 a.m. last call for special events

Back in the 2010s, before you-know-what came along and decimated the local bar industry, dozens of Toronto drinking establishments would regularly serve booze well after the standard 2 a.m. last call, all the way up until 4 a.m. — with the full permission of government regulators.

It wasn't at every bar, and it wasn't every night — only during festivals like The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and large organized events such as Nuit Blanche — but it was a fun, occasional treat for night owls.

With Pride having wrapped up this weekend, NXNE the week before that, and Canadian Music Week earlier this month, I got to wondering: Whatever happened to 4 a.m. last call?

These events used to bring extended last call to dozen of bars at one point — so many that we would publish roundups for every special occasion, no matter how random.

While never quite enough to round up at one time, it turns out that several Toronto bars were, in fact, granted the right to keep serving until 4 a.m. this year, beginning in mid-February with a series of Time For Change fundraisers at an establishment listed as "Wayward Art."

King West nightclub Early Mercy scored permits to stay open late (or rather, early into the next day) during much of Februrary and March thanks to the Cinefranco Film Festival and IndieflmTO Festival, while competitor EFS had 4 a.m. last call for four days in May to celebrate Fashion Art Toronto.

Four establishments — The Paddock, Drom Taberna, The Dive Shop and The El Mocambo — were granted extended hours in April for something called The Easter Egg Music Festival.

The Drake, The Garrison, The Cameron House and Bovine Sex Club are among the other legendary live music venues granted 4 a.m. last call status during festivals including Canadian Music Week, NXNE, CBC Music Junofest and Indie Juno Week.

Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) spokesperson Raymond Kahnert told blogTO that there had been about 50 approvals to date in 2022, and that the list is updated continuously.

There were no such approvals at all during 2020 and 2021 on account of the pandemic, but a good comparison point is 2019, during which Kahnert says the AGCO approved approximately 200 "extension of hours events."

"The AGCO is committed to ensuring that the alcohol sector is operated with honesty, integrity and in the broader public interest, with a focus on the safe and responsible sale of alcohol," Kahnert noted.

"During regular hours and when approved for extended hours, licensed establishments have a responsibility to safely and responsibly serve and sell alcohol."

These 4 a.m. last call permits aren't simply handed out by regulators, however — individual businesses need to apply for a Temporary Extension of Hours, and the event they're staying open for must be of "municipal, provincial, national or international significance."

Applications must also be submitted at least thirty days prior to an event date, so get cracking bar owners — you still have time to stay open late for TIFF.

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns

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