There's a rally to protest the proposed fencing of beaches in Parkdale for beach clubs. But who will support my campaign to reinstate the liquor licence of the Blue Moon Restaurant owned by Ping Hu and Song Xin Yang, aka Lisa and Michael? Not long ago, I took half my life savings ($3) over to the Blue Moon, where that amount could buy a beer and a night out - two beers if you could stand the drafts. The next day, the place was closed. Licence revoked.
The shutdown of this Queen Street bar is part of the eradication of indigenous street and social life in Parkdale. People with nothing trying to have a good time make people with money nervous.
According to the proceedings of a three-day hearing at the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, Councillor Sylvia Watson said she received a "large number" of complaints. She said she heard fights at the Blue Moon from her office down the block.
"There is blood spattered on people's doors." "Citizens" do not feel safe. "People do not go near the place."
"Citizens," "people," "residents" represent one thing. Anybody who entered the Blue Moon was something else. Something to be got rid of.
"Jim's Tavern was a drug centre of Queen Street, with the Blue Moon runner-up," she said. Jimmy's is gone. Also Ice Queen on Roncesvalles. Before that, the Green Dolphin and the Golden Circle.
The night after the restaurant closed, I run the gauntlet of new clubs opening west of the Mental faster than holes in Metro roads. Lineups, taxis, limos, security guards, smokers on cellphones cluttering up the place.
At Brock I see a little crowd ahead. But the Blue Moon is dark. That crowd is one door away in the new place with chandeliers. A sign posted when debit and credit systems are down signifies the gulf between here and the Moon, where credit meant "pay next time."
Been a coupla years I've been walking to the Moon, and I was just getting used to it, even referring to it as "my bar." I think crying in there the other week was the turning point. I wasn't drunk - can't afford that. Lisa brought me napkins.
A former chair of the BIA told the hearings that the area can't attract Starbucks and Tim Hortons because of the Blue Moon, and that his clients were "afraid to cross the parking lot on the south side of Queen because they were mocked, insulted and pushed by patrons" (of the Blue Moon, of course).
Police officers told the hearings that they'd come upon customers being sold liquor to the point of drunkenness and that undercover officers were able to buy drugs outside the bar from someone who was operating from inside. The proceedings noted one officer's complaint that "the licence holder was acquiescing to patrons' behaviour and that patrons controlled the bar.'
Yang, the owner, responded that he would station himself at the door to stop drunk people from entering. Some of those he kept out broke his windows, and he had to make repairs. And, yes, people would congregate on the sidewalk to smoke, but not everyone out there was his customer. He'd always ask those who'd had too much to leave, and when customers stayed downstairs in the washroom too long he'd check up on them to make sure there was no drug dealing.
Retired fire inspector George Edgar Lyons, who went to the Blue Moon in the afternoons to have a beer and watch the news, testified on behalf of the proprietors. He reminded the inquiry that the whole area is full of rooming houses and low-rent apartments and that a lot of people are destitute. He had not seen any trouble in the bar.
Me neither. At the Moon, the law was always "Respect the place or get out." But what respect is there from the outside for the hundreds of people who are also residents, citizens, newcomers to Canada who would drop in to share some company? Young people who could not afford to go out on a date anywhere else in their own neighbourhood could go to the Blue Moon.
Throughout the hearing, there were recommendations for security guards, doormen, a roped-off doorway. These are ludicrous recommendations for a little neighbourhood bar. Ping Hu told the court she does her best and does not want to go on welfare. They are poor, too. They can't afford more lawyers' fees, and the deck is way stacked against them.
Yang patiently refuted the charges. Never a knife, no fistfights even. There was no drinking outside, no illegal patio, as Watson claimed. By "anti-social" behaviour, I think the complainants meant overly social - for them.
And they've got the power to disappear the objects of their contempt.
We are all being blamed for the fact governments won't provide enough services and supports for the troubled of Parkdale. We are also being punished for the irrational fears esteemed citizens have of a) poverty and b) hanging out. The officer who cased the joint reported voices that were "unnecessarily loud." Like whispering wouldn't make us even more suspect.
Drinkers are suspected drunks. Those who just want to say hi are loiterers (hanging out without spending money is illegal) or accused of being drug dealers.
Blue Moon patrons are scary poor people with no credit cards or cellphones. They get places without e-mail or gas-motorized assistance. Scariest of all, we go out individually. The closing of our hangouts effectively means we are being eliminated to make the streets safe for partiers with bank accounts.
These are financially desirable yobs. Theirs is a better class of vomit. When their joints run afoul of liquor licence authorities and are closed, they can find new ones. We can't. Our haunts are disappearing. They party. We pay the price.
Locals fond of the stroll are being shunted into our final shutdown, the Happy Time. The Happy Time's been warned. So Happy Time is all business. Drink fast. Get out. Happy Time closes early. There I meet the Blue Mooner who gave me the idea it was okay to cry at the Moon. He's also in shock.
"It was so cozy," he laments. "I never saw any trouble there." There probably isn't a bar in Toronto where you couldn't score something if you wanted to. I discuss the closing with another Blue Moon regular, an independent businessman. It's like economic cleansing, we decide.
The weapons of mass destruction were never found but have been directed at our little haven from hard times.
SOS 1374 Queen West.
Today it's us. Tomorrow?