Toronto election: Pushing bars' last call to 4 a.m. splits candidates
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You can do it in New York City, Chicago and Atlanta — but should Toronto be allowed to party until 4 a.m.?
Mayoral candidates are divided on the idea of stretching last call another two hours from 2 a.m., with full support from David Soknacki, John Tory open to discussion and opposition from Councillor Karen Stintz and Mayor Rob Ford.
“Would it be good for business? Yeah. Would it create jobs? Yeah. But what are the negative side effects, the social effects, the cost on police?” Ford told reporters Thursday.
“Right now I’d say no because I just don’t know the cost of the policing.”
The drinking debate arose last week after an online petition began floating the idea. The group, Extend Last Call T.O., says the change would elevate Toronto’s status as a “world class city” and points out that Chicago and New York have 4 a.m. last calls. Paris, Tokyo and Las Vegas have none at all.
So far the petition has 2,500 signatures.
Ford was the first candidate to weigh in on the proposal at a news conference Thursday, saying he would not advocate for it.
“If people are being rowdy something might happen. I just don’t feel comfortable with it right now,” he said.
Last week, Ford voted against bending the rules to allow bars to start serving alcohol for the men’s Olympic hockey game at 7 a.m. It passed anyway, with council 37-4 in favour.
“The gold medal game went surprisingly smoothly. I wanna thank the Toronto residents for behaving themselves,” said Ford, who voted against the motion because he thought the Entertainment District was being “left out.”
Ford has often been photographed there with fellow club-goers and was spotted at Muzik nightclub in January, a short time after he publically vowed to give up alcohol in the wake of his crack scandal. (He has since said he is drinking again.)
The mayor said he would reconsider the extension if he spoke with mayors of Canadian cities with later bar hours about how police manage.
Tory said he is open to the debate, but city council must first consult the province and surrounding municipalities that could be affected by the change.
“Hull (Que.) had different closing hours and it created huge problems. Toronto is not an island — we need to look at this regionally, consult with police, then do what makes sense,” Tory said.
Stintz, the former TTC chair, said she would not push for lengthening bar hours with the current late-night transit model.
“Right now the subway closes at 2 a.m., and even though we have a Blue Night service, I don’t believe it’s sufficient to accommodate what would happen if we had last call at 4 a.m.,” Stintz said.
“I would advocate not extending last call in Toronto until we have sufficient transit capabilities to get people home safely.”
She added that the debate has a number of other factors, all of which would need to be weighed in council.
“There’s employment, policing, concerns about safety, concerns about getting home. We would want to make sure we understand all the implications before extending last call,” she said.
For Soknacki, the extension is a good idea because it could spell an end to Toronto’s illegal after-hours clubs.
“If it’s done in a way that is in the existing establishment and under the eye of regulation, it is much better than it being done in after-hour facilities that are under-regulated and unsafe,” Soknacki said.
If elected, Soknacki said he would lobby council to approve the 4 a.m. extension. Added policing costs are not a concern, he said, since police are already a regular presence in the club district. Rather, Soknacki said, the TTC would simply need more late-night buses.
“Running the whole network would be unduly costly, but I think that putting on a bus service would be both practical and allow people to enjoy themselves,” he said.
The campaign is the work of Jeff Tchadjeu, a 26-year-old product developer, and his friend Chris Spoke. Neither is invested in the bar industry, aside from patronage.
“I just enjoy going out, going to a bar, having a pint,” explained Tchadjeu, who says he is “100 per cent” trying to make this a voting issue.
Each time someone submits their name and postal code to the petition, an email is automatically sent to their ward’s councillor. Each mayoral candidate receives one, too.
“We’re going to let the city decide the momentum of this,” Tchadjeu said.