Bars unlimited

Queen Beaconsfield Residents’ Association calls for regulations

Residents of the area around Queen Street West and Beaconsfield Avenue probably have more knowledge about zoning and liquor licences than they ever wanted.

A recent application by owners of the popular bar The Social (1100 Queen St. W) to add a second-floor nightc1ub with a capacity of over 500spurred the Queen Beaconsfield Residents’ Association to issue a plea to the community to help stop the project. The proposal has since been dropped—but a broader battle continues.

Since the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W) reopened its doors in February 2004 after extensive renovations, the stretch of four blocks from Gladstone Avenue to Dovercourt Street has seen many changes, for better or worse. Falling under the latter category according to numerous locals, is the burgeoning number of bars on the strip of Queen Street West to the hotel’s east and west.

The residents’ association’s spokesperson, Misha Glouberman, said that this proliferation of liquor licence-holding businesses has made the surrounding residential streets unliveable for some longtime residents.

Neighbours, frustrated by the noise these venues pump out late into the night, and the patrons who spill out along with it, banded together in 2005 to form the Queen Beaconsfield Residents’ Association, to address in particular a patio proposed byowners of the Beaconsfield (1154queen St. W.) that locals feared would be too large and too noisy.

“It was a huge conflict between the Beaconsfield and the neighbours. The Beaconsfield opened up—they were a really noisy bar and they wanted to open a patio,” Glouberman said.

The neighbours tried to fight it, which resulted in an incredible amount of antagonism. Councillor Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport) was able to broker an agreement that satisfied everyone involved. The bar got their patio, with limited hours of operation, and agreed to keep their music volume down. They also had to have quarterly meetings with neighbours.

Glouberman emphasized that it is Toronto’s regulations that are the problem, not the presence of individual bats. “It’s more about the impact that this tremendous density of bars has on the neighbourhood.

“In many other jurisdictions, there are regulations about how many bars can open in an area, or what neighbours can do if a neighbourhood becomes over-concentrated with bars,” Glouberman said. “In Toronto there is very little in place to allow for that.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s (AGCO) licensing process allows most businesses to apply as restaurants, even if serving food is not their focus. Glouberman cited as an example The Social, a venue where people go to hear bands and dance, which is licensed as a restaurant.

He acknowledged that cities will, and must, change, but said he doesn’t think that residents should have to accept crowds of screaming people outside their apartment windows.

“That’s not inevitable, and that’s not part of the natural change of cities. One can’t expect a neigbourhood to remain the same forever, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to violate noise bylaws there’s no enforcement.”

Looking at solutions, Glouberman said petitions or letters from residents and Councillor Adam Giambrone to the AGCO, which claims to only issue liquor licenses that are in the public’s interest, go unheeded.

“If you go to the AGCO they say it’s not up to them to decide, it’s up to the city. If you go to the city, they say the same. No one actually takes a stand on it.

He said that with noise, the problem can be dismissed at first as not being too acute, but-when the number of licences is allowed to mushroom. The response then changes to telling residents that they live in a club district, so they have no right to complain. He saw it happen in his hometown of Montreal, along the bar-heavy St. Lawrence Street.

“Both the AGCO and the city are failing pretty substantially, and they’re failing both the residents and the bar owners’”

Glouberman said that he’d like to see regulations that even promote nightlife, including later hours. Glouberman equated Toronto’s relationship to alcohol to that of a teenager who has just started drinking- little restraint, and responsibility, are expected of bars in the city. “You treat bars like responsible businesses. Give them more rights and give them more responsibilities.”

The residents’ association is a mix of long-time and new residents, Glouberman said.

Those living on Beaconsfield Avenue continue to monitor the growth of the neighbourhood’s bar scene, and applications for more liquour licences, remembering their street’s history of well-maintained homes.

“It wasn’t the Wild West before the Drake opened,” Glouberman said.

Contact the Queen Beaconsfield Residents’ Association by email at