Toronto announces $1.7 million in support for live music venues
The City of Toronto is throwing a bone (one with a little bit of meat on it) to 45 local live music venues to help them survive the financial impacts of COVID-19.
Speaking at the iconic Cameron House in Queen West on Thursday afternoon, Mayor John Tory announced a combined total of $1.7 million in property tax relief for the eligible venues as part of Toronto's recently-expanded Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclass program.
"Toronto's live music venues contribute greatly to the city's cultural, social and economic fabric," stated the city in a release announcing the targeted relief. "These venues require critical support in the face of ongoing pressures that have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic."
Indeed, live music venues have been disappearing from Toronto at a clip over the past decade thanks in part to soaring real estate values (read: skyrocketing rent prices), municipal zoning issues and bylaw infractions triggered by frequent noise complaints.
Being forced to shut their doors for more than four months under government orders due to the pandemic was more than many venues could bear.
Live music venues play an integral role in Toronto's vibrant cultural scene. Today, the @cityoftoronto announced $1.7 million in property tax relief for 45 eligible venues needing critical support due to ongoing pressures intensified by COVID-19. Details: https://t.co/UL3kRfbfK1 pic.twitter.com/etHZPH3LtR— City of Toronto Arts & Culture (@culture_to) August 20, 2020
Even after getting the green light to reopen at the end of July, when Toronto entered Stage 3 of Ontario's reopening plan, live music venues have been suffering due to strict (albeit necessary) COVID-19 safety rules.
Fans aren't entirely keen on paying to watch artists perform from behind a plexiglass barrier, and with an indoor gathering limit of 50 people at one time, bars are having a hard time breaking even, let alone making money.
"The music sector in Toronto has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Tory on Thursday.
Our new tax subclass for live music venues is the first of its kind in North America. Investing in live music is about investing in the soul and economic development of our city, and making sure that we protect the spaces and communities that make it so special. pic.twitter.com/aWkysOLbA2— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) August 20, 2020
"By providing relief to music venue owners and operators we can ensure that they have a greater chance of surviving and staying open."
Burdock, The Cameron House, The Garrison, Horseshoe Tavern, Lula Lounge, The Painted Lady, The Phoenix Concert Theatre and Relish Bar & Grill are among the 45 venues newly added to the city's Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax subclass.
"The 45 live music venues will realize an estimated $1.7 million in combined tax relief – $0.92 million for the municipal portion and $0.78 million for the education portion of their combined property taxes," reads a release from the city.
"The tax reduction will be absorbed within the City’s overall commercial property tax revenue stream and will not impact residential property tax rates."
It might not be enough to save them all, given these unprecedented circumstances, but hopefully getting a break on their taxes will help at least some businesses weather the storm until things get better.
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