The City is reviewing the licensing and zoning regulations for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues in response to directives from City Council, and recommendations from the Auditor General. The review takes into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to support businesses while addressing community and public safety issues.

Responding to City Council directives, the City began reviewing the Licensing Bylaw in 2018 to modernize the licensing and zoning regulations for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. This work included background research, data analysis, a review of regulations in different cities, and preliminary stakeholder consultations. However, this review was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic as resources needed to be redirected to emergency response and recovery.

Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the restaurant, bar and entertainment industries, the City is prioritizing the review of relevant zoning and licensing regulations to support businesses while addressing community and public safety issues.

The review aims to:

  • Modernize and clarify licensing categories to help the industry recover from the pandemic and better reflect the operations of these businesses across Toronto;
  • Adjust zoning so businesses can better understand and comply with the rules regarding what is permitted in each area of the city;
  • Coordinate the zoning and modernized licence process to strengthen inspection and enforcement;
  • Address public safety and community nuisance issues to better serve residents and the community; and
  • Align with the Toronto’s Music Strategy and Toronto’s Nightlife Action Plan, and concerns expressed by residents, business operators and business associations.

A staff report is expected to be brought forward to the Planning and Housing Committee on November 25, 2021, which will:

  • Propose a framework to modernize and clarify zoning and licensing regulations for bars, restaurants and entertainment venues
  • Outline next steps to address issues with problematic establishments and
  • Put forward plans for public and stakeholder consultation in early 2022

City staff will provide opportunities for participation in comprehensive consultations that will be planned for early 2022. In the meantime, if you wish to provide preliminary comments to inform the framework report on the licensing and zoning regulations for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, you may do so via email to mlsfeedback@toronto.ca by November 5, 2021.

The City will bring forward a final report with zoning and licensing recommendations and proposed bylaw amendments later in 2022. This report will also include recommendations related to the enforcement of problematic establishments for Committee and Council consideration.

City Council and Committee Directives

At its meeting on October 2017, City Council received the Auditor General report titled “A Review of Municipal Licensing and Standards Division’s Management of Business Licences Part Three: Eating Establishments and Nightclubs” which identified the lack of a clear definition of “nightclubs”, resulting in a number of eating establishments operating as unlicensed nightclubs. Council directed staff to review the Licensing Bylaw to address this issue, as well as review provisions related to eating establishments and nightclubs, to strengthen inspection and enforcement, and better reflect nightlife in Toronto.

At its meeting in July 2019, Council received the: “Toronto’s Nightlife Action Plan” report which encourages the review of zoning and business licensing regulations to clarify the requirements for venues regularly presenting live music.

Between 2018 and 2019, Council and its Committees also directed staff to review zoning regulations for live music venues, and to develop and implement an action plan to manage problematic establishments serving alcohol, in addition to other directives related to the creation and promotion of the Toronto Music Strategy and night-time economy. Other directions to staff include:

Research Conducted

As directed by Council, from 2018 – 2019 the City conducted background research, analyzed the current state of licensing and zoning bylaws, and identified issues to be addressed. This work also included analysis of data related to eating establishments and nightclubs, and a preliminary jurisdictional scan of licensing approaches for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. Staff also consulted with stakeholders, including Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA), and industry members.

The October 2019 staff report: Chapter 545, Licensing Bylaw Updates, addressed duplication of the Licensing Bylaw with the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and the December 2019 report Update on Cross-Jurisdictional Action Plan for Bars, Restaurants, and Nightclubs looked at resolving negative community impacts created by problematic establishments serving alcohol.

The remaining Council directives and outstanding recommendations from the Auditor General would have been addressed in subsequent work, however, this review was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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