Problems w. bars in your area? Here are some tips.
A lot of people in Toronto have problems w. nearby bars, but don’t know what they can do, what rights they have, or how to proceed. Here are some tips and some information
First Step: Talk to the bar
Lots of people endure noise from nearby bars, but never take the time to let the bar know that there’s a problem. Your first step should always be to talk to the bar. If there’s an ongoing problem, try and get in touch w. the owner and/or manager, and explain the problem to them. You may think they’re *trying* to upset you, but more likely, they don’t even realize there’s a problem. In many cases, just making this initial communication can help a lot. When you first get in touch, try to assume the best, and approach them with a positive attitude. You may be surprised to learn they’re more interested than you thought in being good neighbours, but never knew there was a problem.
Talk to other neighbours
You may also want to talk to your neighbours to see if other people share your concerns. This can make your case more compelling, both to the bar, and to the city.
If you can hear music from a bar in your home after 11:00, they are in violation of the noise bylaw
The Toronto noise bylaw states that, after 11, if someone’s music of amplified sound is audible in your home after 11:00 pm, then that are in violation of the noise bylaw.
Some things to note:
- A liquor licence does not provide an exemption from this bylaw. Bars are subject to the bylaw, just like anyone else.
- The bylaw applies no matter where you live. The fact that you live downtown, or in a mixed-commercial/residential area doesn’t mean you’re not protected by the bylaw.
- The bylaw doesn’t say that the music has to be loud in your home to constitute a violation, just audible. And it applies even if your windows are open.
Basically- if a bar plays music at night, it is their responsibility to ensure you can’t hear it in your home, by keeping the levels down, by keeping their doors/windows closed, or by installing sound insulation if they want to play very loud music.
(Get the full noise bylaw here)
Enforcement of the noise bylaw is pretty bad, but here’s what you can do
If a bar is making noise, and you’d approached them, but the situation has not gotten better, you can try to get the noise bylaw enforced.
While Toronto does have a noise bylaw, the enforcement of the law is pretty terrible.
Technically, the police are responsible for enforcement of the noise bylaw. To make a noise complaint, call them at 416-808-2222. (Don’t call 911, which is only for emergencies). Note that a lot of the time they won’t come, or they’ll take a long time. Worse, sometimes they will come and, based on a misunderstanding of the noise bylaw, tell the owners that their noise levels are okay. But often, a visit from police will persuade a bar to turn the music down.
If there is an ongoing noise problem, you can also file a noise complaint against the establishment. Email email@example.com. They will provide you the information for documenting an ongoing noise problem, and what you can to do try and get enforcement. (Again – MLS are not always so effective).
You can also try emailing your local city councillor and asking for help. If you are not sure who your councillor is, check out this page. If you have a few neighbours who share your concern, you might want them all to get in touch w. the councillor. Your councillor will likely see the problem as more serious if more people get in touch.
Strict regulations apply to sidewalk patios
If a bar or restaurant has a sidewalk patio on a “residential flankage”, there are strict regulations that usually apply under the city’s boulevard café bylaw. Among these:
- The patio must be closed and cleared (with no-one drinking or eating) by 11:00 pm.
- There may not be any outdoor music at any time. No speakers. No acoustic music.
- Similarly, there can’t be music or other amplified sound (tv, etc) played inside with the doors or windows propped open.
- The establishment has to clean up the patio and the area around it, at least once a day.
There is some enforcement of these regulations. If an establishment near you is violating these regulations, and you’ve talked to them about it to no avail, you can try to get the regulations enforced. The Municipal Licensing office often will try to ensure that patio regulations are followed.
To find the relevant licensing address for your area, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alchohol and Gaming Commission are in charge of liquour licences
If a bar is violating terms of their liquour licence, you can get in touch with the AGCO and let them know.
Note that the AGCO is in general not very responsive to complaints about noise caused by bars. But they are responsive to complaints about bars that serve after closing time, or are filled beyond capacity, or allow customers to take drinks outside, or any of a host of other violations.
Note, too: There is a specific clause in the Liquor Licence Act which states that noise from outdoor licences shouldn’t disturb neighbours. So noise from a rooftop patio, for instance, might elicit some response from the AGCO.
You can contact the AGCO at Licensing@agco.on.ca
Other people share your concerns. Get in touch.
The Queen/Beaconsfield Residents Association is especially interested in hearing from people who live around West Queen West and have problems with bars. We would like to help. But we also see the poor management of nightlife in Toronto as a city-wide issue, so we’re interested, too, in hearing from people in other areas. Email us at QueenBeacRes@gmail.com – we might be able to help.
There’s also great information at the web site of the King/Spadina Residents Association
And most important, try to get in touch with your own neighbours. You can get a lot more done working with the people who live around you.