Toronto bans electronic dance music events from Exhibition Place
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City-owned buildings at Exhibition Place will no longer host popular electronic dance music parties after its board voted 4-3 Friday to ban them.
Those in favour argued it would make teens and tweens safer, saying drug and alcohol abuse among minors is rampant at electronic dance music (EDM) events.
Those opposed said it will do the opposite, calling the safety concern a façade meant to cover up a business owner’s own financial concerns.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who introduced the motion, said the use of MDMA and ecstasy is of particular concern, arguing “this is not what city property and taxpayers’ money should be use for.”
But councillors Gord Perks and Mike Layton, who both voted no, said the problem has been exaggerated by Mammoliti and Zlatko Starkovski, owner of the nearby Muzik nightclub, who complained about the EDM events in January.
“They’ve used this very emotional argument to . . . improve the financial position of one particular bar owner and one that so happens to be the bar of choice of the mayor,” Layton said.
Muzik is one of Mayor Rob Ford’s favourite haunts, Starkovski one of his friends.
After a controversial appearance at the Air Canada Centre last Saturday, the mayor went on to Muzik.
“Z called me and said you wanna come by Muzik? So I went by Muzik and that was it,” he told reporters Monday.
Mammoliti did not return requests for comment, but Starkovski denied the accusations, saying “somebody’s got to stand up for the kids.”
“I don’t find it right,” he said. “There are kids that are pulled out in ambulances for overdosing or alcohol and they’re all underage.”
EDMs are going to happen regardless, said Layton, who argued in favour of keeping them at Exhibition Place, where there are “stringent” rules requiring security and on-site ambulances.
Toronto Public Health recommended the city lease property for large dance parties more than a decade ago, specifically to prevent “problem conditions” at underground raves following the death of a university student.
“It’s a harm reduction approach,” Layton said. “Some people might not like it, but kids are going to want to dance.”
Charles Khabouth, CEO and founder of Ink Entertainment, has hosted two EDM events at Exhibition Place in the last six months.
While he doesn’t think the move will force the parties underground given their mainstream popularity, Khabouth said Friday’s meeting was not reflective of the “very safe, very fun” events.
“Strict police, security and paramedics . . . the safety issues have all been dealt with,” he said, adding he won’t stop hosting EDMs; he’ll just rent space elsewhere.
The decision will likely cost Exhibition Place around $1 million in annual revenue, Perks said.
The news came as a disappointment to Councillor Michael Thompson, chair of the economic development committee, who noted the music alliance the city has signed with Austin, Texas.
“It’s certainly something that we’re going to have to look at because as you know we are focusing on music as a key piece with respect to economic opportunities, economic development, creating jobs,” he told reporters.
Perks said he plans to address the issue with senior officials to determine if council can override the board.