NDP MPP: Ontario needs common sense rules for liquor licencing and nightlife

Trinity-Spadina MPP Rosario Marchese says Ontario needs to learn from the world’s most successful nightlife cities and update its rules concerning liquor licencing and nightlife. Marchese tabled a bill that would give municipalities the ability to develop finer-grained regulatory tools to address nightlife concerns, while reducing red tape and stress for most restaurants.

“Businesses and residents have told me the same thing: the vast majority of licenced establishments respect the rules and their neighbours,” said Marchese. “Only a tiny minority of establishments cause any concern.”

Cities like New York, London, Berlin and Montreal use a combination of regulatory tools that are currently unavailable to municipalities in Ontario. These tools include the ability to create distinct establishment classes that are regulated differently, to regulate establishment operating hours based on location and class, and to regulate the concentration of a class of establishment within an area.

“Municipalities need common sense regulatory tools that can be focused only where the concerns are, not on all licenced establishments,” said Marchese. “Unfortunately, provincial law allows them only sledgehammers.”

While municipalities in Ontario are able to regulate almost every other type of business with similar tools, provincial barriers prevent them from regulating liquor licenced establishments under their business licencing and zoning systems. When conflicts between nightlife establishments and residents flare up, the municipality has little choice but to regulate all restaurants in the same way, regardless of whether they operate during the daytime or nighttime, or if they sell alcohol or not.

Marchese’s bill would allow municipalities to replace these broad regulatory rules with more precise tools. “An ice cream parlour should not face the same zoning restrictions as a late-night lounge,” said Marchese.

Marchese’s bill would also strengthen the legal standing of municipalities at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the Licence Appeal Tribunal when determining the local “public interest” as applied under the LLA. The AGCO would also be required to notify the municipality when a licence is transferred, formalizing an existing practise between the AGCO and the City of Toronto. 

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