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Extended liquor hours would help put Toronto ‘on the map’ club owner says ahead of consultations on night economy

A local businessman with a prominent stake in Toronto’s nightlife scene says he’s hopeful that a town hall on the city’s night economy will lead to extended hours for Toronto entertainment options.

“There’s nothing more pleasurable than to hear that there’s a consideration of extending our hours of operation for liquor,” INK Entertainment Group CEO Charles Khabouth told CP24.

Khabouth’s company owns a number of popular night spots around town, including Cabana Poolbar, Byblos and the Bisha Hotel. He says that Toronto has lagged behind many other world-class cities for years in terms of its nightlife.

“It’s time the City of Toronto becomes one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. We need to take lessons from New York, from Miami, from Paris, London,” he said. “That’s what helps put cities on the map — it’s entertainment, music, fashion, art — and it’s all driven by your late night entertainment and Toronto has been crawling, crawling to that lineup.”

The city is trying to strengthen Toronto’s nightlife over the next three years through better planning, enhanced safety and the creation of a foundation to encourage vibrant nightlife by supporting local artists and entrepreneurs.

A review of the current nightlife economy is part of that effort, and includes public consultations, the first of which is taking place Wednesday night.

The night economy refers to the social, cultural, and economic activities that take place between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in Toronto.

“These activities include entertainment such as attending concerts or going out to eat, practical necessities like grocery shopping, and performing actual employment,” the city says.

The city says it is “taking a strategic approach” to managing and planning for the night in order to “be proactive in addressing any concerns with increasing night activities – such as noise and safety.”

The review is also looking for public input to update the definitions, rules, and licensing for bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Speaking with reporters at an unrelated event Wednesday, Mayor Olivia Chow said “Toronto is a place where people love to party” and added that she is looking forward to the consultations.

“There’s lots of consideration about timing and about footage and there’s regulations that we want to loosen up, so there’s a lot of conversation going on, and we’ll see where it lands,” Chow said.

She added that she understands the concerns that some residents might have around noise and disruptions from extended nightlife.

“I’m sure we can find a way that works for everyone and have a balanced approach, whether it’s encouraging more economic and also cultural activities in the evening, but also protecting neighbourhoods, and making sure people have a good quality of life,” Chow said.

Khabouth said that loosening liquor laws would generate more revenue for the city through taxes and draw large events which have passed over Toronto because of what he says are “very tight liquor bylaws.”

He said that while alcohol service stops in Toronto at 2 a.m., other cities have longer hours and are still experimenting with lengthening them.

Toronto, has from time to time, extended its alcohol service hours for some events like the Toronto International Film Festival but typically only in some parts of the city.

“I mean Montreal is in the process of testing 24-hour liquor service in certain areas. That might be a little too drastic,” Khabouth said. “But I think extending our hours to 4 or 5 a.m. will definitely generate a lot more business and will bring tourism into the city at a much higher scale.”

He suggested that lengthening drinking hours in the city might in fact lead to lower intoxication, because people would not feel as if they had to “finish the race” by 2 a.m.

Extended TTC hours might be needed in order to make sure that people could get home safely, but he suggested the extra costs would be offset by additional revenue for the city.

The first-ever night economy town hall is being held in-person at the Beanfield Centre, as well as virtually from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Participants must register in order to take part.

A night economy internal working group made up of senior representatives from city divisions will be working with industry stakeholders to further develop the plans. 

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