Many neighbours feel a zoning regulation is needed that limits the number of bars that can operate on Queen Street between Dovercourt and Gladstone. This document gives some background on this.

How much have things changed in our neighbourhood?

Since 2004, around ten new bars have either been opened or dramatically re-launched in the four blocks between Dovercourt and Gladstone. What was once a quiet area is now quickly turning into a busy night-time entertainment district, with a total licenced capacity of around 2000 people.

Isn’t bar density just a fact of urban life?

Many cities have regulations limiting the number of bars, or total capacity, that can open in a given area. In New York, for example, there is a law stating that no more than 3 licenced establishments can open in a single 500 foot area unless the community can be persuaded that a new bar is in the public interest. For comparison, there are now around ten bars within a little over 500 feet of the corner of Queen/Beaconsfield. Our research shows that there are regulations (at various levels of government) meant to prevent over-saturation of bars in effect in such cities as New York, Berlin, Chicago, , Los Angeles, London (UK), Montreal, and San Francisco.  In Toronto, there are no limits on the number of bars that can open in an area. (See research at:

Can’t we just get bars to comply better with regulations? Or just focus on the “troublesome” bars?

Many of the worst problems in our neighbourhood arise not because individual bars fail to control their noise or their customers, but simply because of the number of customers. No matter how responsible the bars try to be (and many bars around us work tremendously hard being really good neighbours), when so many people come to drink in one neighbourhood, it inevitably creates a lot of noise and other disturbances. This fact is beyond the control of any of the bars. This is why many cities (see previous item), in addition to having regulations on things like noise and crowd-control, also have measures to limit on bar density.

I like the bars, and I like the bar owners.  I don’t want to hurt their business.

Many members of our group are regular customers of many of the bars in the area, and friends with the owners and staff. We think it’s great to have some bars in our neighbourhood, and recognize the positive contributions many of the bars have made. But we also believe the sheer number of bars and bar customers in this neighbourhood has become a problem. Our position isn’t about creating any trouble for existing bars, or about saying bars are bad. It’s about saying that adding more bars to this neighbourhood isn’t good idea right now.

If you don’t like noise, why don’t you move to the suburbs?

Some people have suggested that by living downtown, neighbours forfeit the right to a good night’s sleep. We think this idea is anti-urban, as it suggests that downtown should be turned into an entertainment zone, where people from the suburbs can come to party, and then go home to sleep. We believe that it’s important for Toronto to have a vibrant core, where people can live, that supports a mix of uses. We understand that city life is a bit louder here than in the suburbs, and we like that, but we also insist that even in a lively downtown mixed-use core, there needs to be some protection against noise and other nuisances.

Many cities use zoning, license density regulations, and effective noise bylaws to encourage nightlife to thrive, while protecting the residential functions of mixed-use neighbourhoods. (In Berlin, for example, new nightclubs must submit noise-impact plans to demonstrate that they will not adversely affect neighbours.) We think it’s important for neighbours to take responsibility, and to have a say in what happens in their neighbourhoods.

Don’t bars create jobs and help the local economy?

Of course. But so do other businesses. We’d love to see our area be a mixed-use neighbourhood, with many kinds of businesses, including businesses that support neighbourhood residential life, with more day-time uses.

Doesn’t the Alcohol and Gaming Commission look after this?

The AGCO is the provincial body responsible for issuing licences. However, they are very clear in stating that issues such as saturation of mixed-use neighbourhoods by bars are to be dealt with by municipal governments. If the city passes a regulation limiting the number of bars in an area, the AGCO will respect that regulation, and not issue new licences.

Do many people feel this way?

Last summer, we circulated a petition requesting a moratorium on new bars in the area, and very quickly collected 250 signatures. Our impression is that many neighbours feel the number of bars in the area is having a really negative impact on the people who live here. We understand a petition isn’t always the most balanced way to assess opinions. We’d be really interested in getting a fairer assessment of how many neighbours feel this way. On numerous occasions, we’ve discussed with the councillor’s office the idea of conducting a neighbourhood poll on this issue, but such a poll has been very slow in coming.

Who is in the Residents Association?

The Queen/Beaconsfield Residents Association is a very informal network of neighbours, with an email list of around 200 members who live, work, or own property in and around this area. Some members are fairly new to the neighbourhood, while others have lived here for as long as fifty years. The group includes homeowners as well as tenants, artists, parents, professionals, local business owners, and all kinds of people, all concerned about this impact of bars in this neighbourhood.

Are you trying to ban bars altogether? Aren’t there better solutions?

Many neighbours have been working with the councilor’s office, and communicating with the AGCO, for the past few years, trying to find a solution. We feel the best solution would be some sort of regulation that in some way limits the number of bars in the area or the total capacity all bars in the area. Even if no new bars were allowed, this would not be a total “ban”: our neighbourhood already has many bars, and these would continue to operate. We simply feel that, as is true in many cities around the world, there needs to be some limit on what counts as “enough” bars in an area, and many of use feel we are already at this point.

Does the planning department’s proposed solution help?

Neighbours have, for several years, been asking the city to investigate the possibility of a regulation that limits the number of bars in our area. Last year, the planning department promised to research such regulations. Ultimately, however, the department simply made clear that they do not intend to recommend any regulation that would put a cap on new bars opening in the area.

Instead of looking into ways to cap the number of bars in the area, as neighbours requested, planning have proposed a number of adjustments to existing regulations. We feel these regulations do not do nearly enough to stop more bars from opening: Under planning’s recommended solution, nearly every building in the  area that does not currently house a bar could potentially be turned into a new bar. At the same time, the proposed regulations create restrictions that are very burdensome for businesses, in ways that we feel are not actually helpful in addressing the concerns that neighbours have.

What has Councillor Giambrone done?

We have been in contact with councilor Giambrone’s office about this matter for several years, and have urged him to take a strong stand on this issue. Thus far, he has not taken any position on planning’s proposal, nor do we feel he has he clearly expressed a position on the issue of bar concentration in our area. We believe it is his responsibility to do this, and we are disappointed he has not done so.


  1. New FAQ, and some research on other cities « Queen/Beaconsfield Residents Association Says:

    […] address some of the concerns around the concentration of bars in our area. We’ve posted a new list of  Frequently-Asked Questions about […]

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