By Rebecca Payne
The stretch of Queen Street between Dufferin and Roncesvalles will be under the city’s microscope as a restaurant concentration study begins, a move that may prove to be divisive for the neighbourhood, if a recent community meeting is any indication of things to come.
At a heated meeting on June 28 at May Robinson Auditorium (20 West Lodge Ave.), city planner Dan Nicholson and Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) hosted the first meeting to hear residents’ thoughts about the developments in their neighbourhood in the past few years—namely, a growing number of bars in the area that some residents say has had a negative impact.
Some residents were concerned a concentration study would have a negative impact on the neighbourhood, while others complained about noise and drunken behaviour in relation to bars in the area (the only one specifically referred to by name was Parts & Labour).
Two restaurant owners showed up to the meeting to make the case for their businesses. A man affiliated with Local Kitchen & Wine Bar said he had not been approached by the city, or any residents, before receiving notice of this meeting about “the negative impact of restaurants.” He suggested the city needed to work more closely with those in the restaurant industry.
Another restaurateur, who did not give his name, said the “little guys” might be affected negatively by the results of the study. He felt his business was of benefit to the community, and that he was out there making the community more safe. “Sometimes we’re the only people who are asking drunk [people] to stop and getting people to stop fighting [on the street],” he said.
Some residents agreed that the increase in activity in the area was making it a safer place to be.
“[I’ve been] in the area for the last ten years, and … [it’s a] hell of a lot better now than it was ten years ago, that’s for sure,” said one resident. “And I don’t know one restaurant in Toronto that doesn’t play music when people are eating,” he continued. “Let them dance!”
One Cowan Avenue resident, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 12 years, said “I think it’s a great place to live, [with] people of all different ethnic and economic backgrounds. By and large people get along. It’s becoming posh and they want to throw out dive bars and make it more posh … [I’d like to see] a mix of bars, restaurants, and other stores.”
A similar study was conducted in 2009 for the strip of Queen between Dovercourt and Gladstone, where between 2004 and 2009, 13 new restaurants opened.
In the final report from the 2009 Dovercourt-Gladstone study, several recommendations were made to stop an over-concentration of “late night drinking establishments” in the area, including reducing maximum size of ground floor area for new businesses.
Although members of the working group wanted a new “hybrid” zoning bylaw definition for restaurant/bar establishments, the city did not agree. According to the report, the AGCO “requires at least five entreé items (food) to be available for purchase,” which means these establishments will, in theory, have space dedicated to food preparation, and thus be difficult to distinguish from restaurants. (Although, as noted by Perks, some establishments will merely “have a couple Hungry Man dinners in the freezer” to get around the required food service.)
Perks proposed that a “working group” made up of representatives from interested parties be set up to discuss concerns in detail. This is the same process that was undertaken for the Dovercourt-Gladstone study. Perks’ suggestions for members of the working group included representatives from Toronto Police, the AGCO, MLS, the BIA (one being a restaurant owner and one not), and the Parkdale Residents’ Association.
Some in attendance seemed to feel Perks’ choices for representatives would result in a status quo result. To wit, one attendee suggested they “get a clubber” to participate in the working group. (Perks’ then joked, “I’m so old, no clubber would ever speak to me.”)
The working group will meet at least three times to discuss the issues brought forth at this meeting, and then another public meeting will be held where the group’s findings will be presented.
“Change always prompts concern,” said Nicholson. “A lot of what’s happening on Queen is positive—but there are concerns.”
For more information contact Dan Nicholson at 416-397-4077