My deputation to North York Community Council, August 12, 2014 (part 1)

Speaking in support of NY34.7 — Refusal of a Boulevard Café Permit Application — 2 Broadway Avenue

Thank you, Madame Chair, and good morning. My name is Sean Boulton and I live [across the street] from the applicant.

As I was preparing my remarks, I found myself needing to very carefully separate my thoughts. A lot of things about SIP Wine Bar came to mind that just weren't directly relevant to their permit application. So, to be safe, I made myself a list so that I'd stay on point.

For example, it's not directly relevant that if the building's owner hadn't let two rental apartments be turned into commercial space, without city approval, we wouldn't even be here.

It's not directly relevant that SIP's staff regularly drag a café table out onto the sidewalk as a hostess stand. Or that the table often has drinks on it, because it's convenient for their smoking patrons who block the doorway to the apartments above.

And it's not directly relevant that SIP has an A-frame sign outside that violates about six clauses in the city's sign bylaws. I mean, lots of businesses have illegal A-frame signs. Of course, most of them put their sign out front, rather than 65 feet away at the corner. And most of them bring their sign in at night and put it out in the morning, while SIP's sign stays out 24/7.

And… sorry, I got off track. I meant to steer clear of all of that. All those things are interesting, but they're not my main argument.

No, my main argument is this. On Friday night at about 11:30, I went over for the second time in three weeks to ask SIP to do something about their noise. To give you some context, again, I live in the condo building across the street — my unit's about 150 feet away from their front window and three floors up. At that distance and with my windows closed, I could hear the noise from the restaurant. Now, it's a simple fix — they just have to close the folding windows that run across the front. Three weeks ago, I had to ask twice, but they did eventually close them. This time, two of the owners happened to be on site, and they point blank refused to. Both times, I called 311 and this weekend, I also called the police, who came and gave them a warning. At about 1:45 a.m., with the noise still going, I went back downstairs and was just about to call the police again, when I saw a squad car pull up. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who had a problem with the noise.

SIP is located at 2 Broadway Avenue, which is zoned commercial/residential, but it's been strictly residential at least since I moved to the area in 1999. There's also residential to the east, and directly across on my side of the street. If commercial and residential are going to co-exist, I don't think it's unreasonable to have some limits about noise later at night.

In fact, along much of Yonge Street, commercial and residential do co-exist. If you look at the four kilometre stretch of Yonge Street between Davisville Avenue and Yonge Boulevard, there are 57 residential side streets that run east or west off Yonge. On those side streets, there are 36 businesses that are near Yonge, but located completely on the side street — convenience stores, and tailors, and dry cleaners, and yes, restaurants. Four restaurants, actually, and one of them even has a patio.

But, what do those three other restaurants have in common? None of them — not one — has a liquor license. SIP is precedent setting for an area that covers a huge chunk of midtown and north Toronto. And it was a bad precedent. Of course, when a business applying for a liquor license doesn't post the required public notice in a visible location, it tends to make the approval process smoother.

SIP has argued that South Street Burger next door to their west has a patio, and so they should get to have one too. I'd counter that South Street is not only a very different business model — their customers don't stay as long, for example, and they close a lot earlier at night — but it's right at the corner of Yonge. In fact, there's also the Duke of Kent and Coquine further south — both midtown restaurants with patios right on the corner of a side street and Yonge. The corners of Yonge are inarguably commercial. SIP, again, is surrounded by residential buildings.

Now, SIP already has their liquor license for outdoor service, even though they don't have a boulevard café permit. They've already shown they're unwilling to control the noise coming from inside. Imagine for just a moment how little they'd care about controlling noise from their patio if you let them have one.

One last point — if, for some reason, you feel they deserve the benefit of the doubt, I'd just point out that this application was refused by staff even before it could be put to a neighbourhood poll, as the municipal code requires. So, I'd hope you'd uphold the code, refer this back to staff, and give the residents of the area a chance for their voices to be heard first.

But it'd be a lot simpler if you take staff's advice and just turn down this appeal today instead. Thank you.