Outdoor dance parties have become the central issue in a contentious battle between concert venue Rebel and surrounding residents.
The club’s owners have applied for a new liquor licence, arguing that the conditions placed on its current licence – including a ban on outdoor events – are outdated.
On Monday (March 20), Rebel owner Powerhouse Corporation will enter into four days of hearings at the Licensing Appeals Tribunal of Ontario (LAT). Residents groups, the city, and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission are parties at the hearing and all are opposing the application.
The hearings were initially set to begin on February 9, but Ed Hore, co-chair of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association reached out to Powerhouse’s legal team to negotiate a settlement.
So far the talks have been unsuccessful, but remain ongoing.
“We’re moving along and I don’t know why they want to go ahead with the hearing,” says Hore. “To me that’s counterproductive, but that’s what they want to do. It’s generally part of their high-handedness.”
Outdoor events have emerged as the sticking point.
Rebel is part of an entertainment complex located on the eastern end of the waterfront at 11 Polson. It includes Cabana Pool Bar, which has held outdoor parties in the summer months since 2014.
That same year, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the provincial body that issues and regulates liquor licences, informed the city it would no longer enforce noise conditions attached to liquor licences.
Powerhouse’s lawyer, Richard Kulis, did not respond to a request for comment as of press time, but last month he told NOW that some of the conditions on the licence were "completely outdated" including those relating to noise.
“What we want are conditions that are clear,” he says. “So that the residents know what their rights are and so that various regulatory agencies know what it is that needs to be enforced and are confident that they have the jurisdiction to be able to enforce it.
“Conditions are always an impediment to a licence for various reasons,” he added. “In terms of operation or if they wanted to sell the business down the line.”
Hore counters that a lack of provincial enforcement means the current licence and its conditions should stand.
“If we’re not going to have any conditions – i.e. limitations – then the public interest is that there should not be a [new] licence,” he says. “In other words, they already have a licence so they should carry on to do what they’re already doing.”
The city, which is in the midst of reviewing the noise bylaw, is limited in its ability to handle the volume of noise complaints it receives. Last year, a staff report noted that the Municipal Licensing & Standards office “does not have adequate capacity” to investigate complaints made during off-duty hours.
The city’s bylaw prohibits music between 11 pm and 7 am, and to 9 am on Sundays and holidays.
The battles over noise on the waterfront date back to the late 90s when the Polson Pier complex was known as The Docks.
For a decade, Toronto Island residents complained about noise emanating from the club and concert venue until the AGCO revoked its liquor licence. New owners applied for a new licence and negotiated with the city and Island residents. In 2008, they agreed upon 15 conditions that limited noise levels and banned outdoor events, among other things.
In 2011, club king Charles Khabouth took over the business and four years later applied to remove the conditions. However, he later withdrew that application and started Powerhouse with a group of partners.
Powerhouse then applied for a new licence in 2015. The AGCO initially rejected that application, but the decision was overturned by a divisional court.