News / Toronto

Councillor asks for study to limit, regulate chain stores

Mike Layton wants the city to learn more about a San Francisco policy designed to preserve the character of commercial streets.

Yonge Street in March 2017.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Yonge Street in March 2017.

Mike Layton doesn’t want chain stores to take over Toronto.

The downtown councillor has prepared a motion for next week’s council meeting to study ways the city can support local businesses and preserve the character of retail strips like Yonge Street.

Layton says he wants to “create an environment that’s more of an incubator for small-scale stores.”


Layton’s motion is a response to recent commercial and retail changes in Toronto. Seven music venues have closed in 2017, and it was recently announced that the Hard Rock Café at Yonge and Dundas will be turned into a Shoppers Drug Mart.

Layton pointed to a San Francisco policy called Formula Retail Use, in which chain stores face additional regulations. This includes a more rigorous approval process, controls on matching the character of a neighbourhood and limitations and prohibitions in some parts of the city.

The San Francisco policy, which was passed by referendum, regulates chain stores with more than 11 national locations and a uniform look. The policy has also been criticized, with one business journal arguing that it penalizes success. The regulation prevented chains like American Apparel and Chipotle from opening in some parts of the city.

“We should look at approaches from other cities with the same problem,” said Layton. He added he also wants to understand what existing powers the city has to regulate chain stores.

Layton noted that part of the challenge is that developers look for large and stable tenants to occupy their retail spaces. Streets also need a diverse mix.

“You can’t just have the same formula for every development,” he said. “This isn’t saying no to chain stores, but there needs to be some local consideration.”

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