Parkdale's bar scene has been put on pause.
Under an interim control bylaw passed quietly by city council Wednesday, October 31, new bars and restaurants will be prohibited from opening on the main drag of the tough but trendsetting downtown village for a period of one year, effective immediately.
The measure, sponsored by local Councillor Gord Perks, applies to Queen Street West between Dufferin and Roncesvalles. Not only are new establishments barred, but existing ones are also prohibited from expanding onto a second floor and opening backyard or rooftop patios, unless they've already secured permission to do so.
A similar - and very controversial - ban was imposed on the burgeoning Ossington strip in 2009.
Perks says the surprise freeze was necessary because new nightspots are opening up at such a rate that they're beginning to push out local businesses that serve the day-to-day life of the community.
"I'm watching what was a neighbourhood street turn into an entertainment district," says Perks. "I'm getting a liquor licence application coming into that stretch every other week. So we really needed to lower the temperature."
A planning study aimed at mitigating the impact of rapid development in the area was initiated last June, but Perks says it's not moving fast enough. The freeze will be lifted if the study is concluded before the one-year period is up.
The councillor, who is fiercely protective of the hardscrabble neighbourhood, believes a continued influx of bars and restaurants would attract more rowdy late-night crowds, deaden the area in the daytime and push property values so high that they would drive out local businesses. He says that process has already begun. A hardware store and an optician on Queen West recently closed shop.
Anna Bartula of the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Area says the neighbourhood could benefit from a cooling-off period, but she's concerned that the interim bylaw will affect businesses with expansion applications in the works. "This impacts some of our members who have permits pending," Bartula says.
Victor Willis, executive director of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, supports the interim bylaw. He says that while the recent bar boom has helped dispel the stigma that shrouded the neighbourhood for decades, the new businesses don't serve the needs of the area's marginalized residents, many of whom are new immigrants or psychiatric survivors.
"We've got storefronts that are empty," Willis says. "I'd love to see Parkdale think about how we can incubate new opportunities for businesses that reflect the people who live here."