Updated FAQ on Bar Concentration



Many neighbours who live around Queen and Beaconsfield feel that regulations are needed that limit the number of bars that can operate in the area. This document gives some background on this.


Why is bar density a concern?

In our neighbourhood, lots of people live in residential homes on or near a commercial street. Over the past few years, the neighbourhood had become ever-more saturated with bars. Late at night the streets are packed with large numbers of people who have been out drinking, often leading to noise, fights, vandalism, and other disturbances. For many people, it’s become very hard to live here, and very hard to sleep at  night.


Why are regulations needed?

Nightlife is important and valuable. It’s important for people to have places to go, to listen to live music, to dance, to enjoy themselves. It’s also important for people who live in cities to be able to sleep, and to be able to receive some protection from some of the negative impact of bars and nightlife. Regulations can help in a couple of ways:

  • Regulations on individual bars can do things like try and ensure that bars that play loud music have proper soundproofing, that bars make efforts to keep their lineups orderly, to keep customers reasonably quiet in their outdoor areas, etc.
  • Regulations on zoning and density can prevent any given area from being over-concentrated with bars.


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

Our group did some research on this a few years ago and here is what we found: 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: http://www.tinyurl.com/barsaturation)


Why are density regulations required?

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 (which are very important), also have measures to limit on bar density.


Nightlife is important! 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.


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.



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