Extending Last Call to Boost Toronto's Night-Time Economy Won't Be So Simple
A growing number of cities are appointing "night mayors" to address after dark issues, but not everybody's on-board.
Andrew Williamson This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.
Partying until 4AM and beyond in Toronto takes commitment. By 1:30, you've abandoned the idea of taking the subway home, and by 2:30, you're out on the street competing with everyone else for the next cab to take you home or to that after-hours spot your friend told you about. It's a scenario that is becoming increasingly common as the nightlife in major cities pushes further into the early hours of the morning.
While many celebrate the fact that the fun doesn't have to stop (quite so early), others are recognizing that it's bringing an influx of jobs and cash to downtown centers. This so-called "other 9-5" is also forcing these urban areas to consider what impact each of their night-time economies have on not only their revenue streams, but their transportation networks, public health resources, and most importantly, their citizens. In Toronto, that means considering whether subway service ending at 1:30 AM, and last call happening at 2 AM, is really what's best for everyone.
At a meeting this week, the Economic Development Committee heard from business owners and the public about the benefits and disadvantages of fostering a night-time economy. Owner of Queen Street West club Nocturne, Spencer Sutherland, suggested that with increasing real estate prices, Toronto bars and venues should be allowed to extend last call hours to better leverage people as well as costly city services.
There's already some precedent—New York City has its own city-specific last call at 4 AM, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) runs 24 hours a day. Amsterdam has created the position of "Night Mayor," a municipal representative who deals with after dark issues involving businesses, residents, and nightlife, with Paris, Toulouse, and Zurich all following suit. Earlier this month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that Amy Lamé would be the city's first ever "Night Czar."
While media outlets were quick to report on the idea of Toronto establishing an extended last call outside of special events (such as NXNE or the Toronto International Film Festival), there's still plenty of work by multiple groups to be done, with a strategy report by the committee not expected until next year. In the meantime, THUMP collected quotes from the meeting, and spoke to a handful of industry experts to find out the pros and cons of this proposed plan.
Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33):
"If you have a couple of square blocks of nothing but giant dance palaces playing nothing but recorded music, you're just asking for the guns to come along with."
Constable Victor Kwong (Toronto Police Service):
"We will enforce whatever bylaws city council approves. It's that simple."
Ms. Jane (Deep Gold, It's Not U It's Me):
"I think it's a really complex problem. From a purely economical standpoint as a promoter, the idea of extending last call is great. It means I can have people come in for longer, the DJs can spin for more hours, I can bring headliners in, and they can have more time. That's my priority. I don't want to bring someone from across the ocean or from in the States and have them only play for two hours. I want to get the full experience and that's what people are paying for.
But I think there's a lot of other things that need to be addressed alongside. So, transit, making sure people can get home safely. It can't just be Uber and cabs, we need to make sure women are getting home safely. We need to make sure there's infrastructure there for the employees who are working that late. Being able to go out often and that late, I think there's definitely mental health issues attached to staying out late and partying that requires support infrastructure for those kinds of things, as well as transportation."
Josh Voynovich (Promoter, Artificial Sounds):
"I think it's great that dialogue is finally open, but 4 AM last call isn't the main issue for Toronto."
Liz Sauter (Toronto Noise Coalition):
"Frankly, I'm getting a little annoyed to hear 'What do you live in the Entertainment District for?' As if we deserve the kind of behaviours that go on in the downtown core, when it is a high residential component. We live in one of the highest residential components in the city, Ward 20. Please don't ignore that we have rights to the quiet enjoyment of our residential area. I've lived in downtown Toronto, I've travelled the world, I live in a global economy, I work in a global economy. I'm not against 24/7, but we do not have the enforcement tools and people out at those hours of the morning that can rectify the [noise] situation."
Spencer Sutherland (Nocturne, Toronto Music Advisory Council):
"Every world city reaches a point in their growth cycle where it becomes necessary to plan and tend to the night-time economy. Toronto is the country's biggest and most mature city, but it's actually lagging behind other major cities across the world in developing such a strategy. The night-time economy is a garden that needs to be tended and nourished, rather than grown wild, as it has been to date. We ask the city to explore ways to enhance our night time economy, including ways to improve and update late liquor licensing, licensing types, transportation, community safety, and special events."
Michael Rancic is on Twitter.