toronto world cup

Toronto would rather let bars serve booze at 7 a.m. than allow drinking in parks

Toronto The Good is peeling off her bifocals, putting on some leather pants and getting just a bit wild for the 2022 FIFA World Cup — but only for the World Cup.

Beginning this Sunday, Nov. 20, bars and restaurants in Canada's largest city will be permitted to start serving booze at an unholy-sounding 7 a.m. for soccer fans who will be watching live games at all hours thanks to time zone differences.

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced that he had requested such a move on Wednesday, paving the way for a Friday afternoon news release confirming that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) had officially okayed a 7 a.m. start time between Nov. 18 and Dec. 18.

Normally, Ontario's provincial government does not permit the sale of alcohol to anyone before 9 a.m.

"The FIFA World Cup 2022 is taking place in Qatar, which is eight hours ahead of Toronto. As a result of the time difference, many World Cup games will be broadcast in Canada starting early in the morning," announced the city on Friday. "The AGCO extension will allow licensed businesses to serve alcohol at a time better aligned with kickoff times."

City media staffers explained that "while municipalities may object to the extension of liquor sale hours, Mayor John Tory and the City of Toronto are in favour of the extension and had planned to enact a similar bylaw at the first meeting of City Council."

One reason for the extension pertains to supporting businesses in the food and beverage industry, which we all well know suffered great losses over nearly two years of rolling lockdowns.

The presser notes that this isn't the first time Toronto has given serving hours some wiggle room; not only does the city regularly extend last call until 4 a.m. at certain venues during festivals, bars have been able to serve earlier than usual in the past during some World Cup and other major sporting tournaments.

It didn't take long for locals to call out the irony of a city that bans park drinking from moving first call up to breakfast time.

After years and years of back-and-forth about whether the city should permit people to consume alcoholic beverages in public parks, it almost looked like we were headed toward becoming a real, open-booze-consuming, world-class city like Paris, London, Montreal or Sydney.

Alas, in May of 2022, City Council voted 17 to 2 in favour of a motion to block the lifting of Toronto's long and controversial ban on park drinking.

Rather, city staff were approved to compile a report on potential bylaw amendments and other considerations needed to proceed with legal park beers.

As of right now, the Toronto Municipal Code currently states that no person in a park can "have in their possession an open container of any liquor" or "consume, serve or sell liquor," among other things.

Many in the city flat-out ignore this rule, and cops are usually pretty cool about it.

Those who aren't can ding residents caught drinking beer or wine in a park with fines of $300. People who don't have backyards in Toronto (read most people under 40) and want to drink outdoors with their friends simply have to hide their booze or go someplace else... like a patio, or John Tory's rooftop.

I've never been invited myself, but the amenities at the mayor's Yorkville residence do look perfect for a boozy BBQ.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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