Toronto City Council has put a limit on the expansion of Queen Street West's foodie culture, passing a by-law restricting the number of restaurants in the area.
On Friday, council passed the by-law, which places a cap on the number of restaurants that can open on the Parkdale stretch of the street between Roncesvalles Avenue and Dufferin Street.
"We are now saying that, for main streets that are supposed to serve a whole bunch of shopping needs for the local community, you can't drive it out with 100 per cent restaurants," said city councillor Gord Perks, who represents Parkdale and brought forward the motion to approve the by-law.
The by-law splits the stretch into four sections and prevents new restaurants from opening in any quarter where restaurants make up more than one in four businesses. Mr. Perks said one of these quarters – between Dufferin Street and Brock Avenue – is already over the cap, another is at the cap and two are below it.
The stretch has seen a transformation in recent years from quiet shops and empty storefronts to an artsy annex of restaurants and bars. In the past two years, at least six new restaurants have cropped up in the neighbourhood as Queen's hipster cocktail bar scene creeps into the quieter western arm of the street.
The by-law isn't a freeze on new eateries: As many as 12 new restaurants could potentially open on the street in the areas where the cap has not been met and restaurants that go out of business can be replaced by new ones in the same space.
Mr. Perks said the by-law was motivated by consultation with the community, which is bristling against the party crowd visiting the area on weekends. Though a by-law of this type has never been created before, Mr. Perks said it didn't set a precedent because it was community-specific.
"This is not a restaurant row. This is a party row. It is a fundamental change in the character and it is impacting in the quality of life of people who live in this neighbourhood," Mr. Perks said, referring to anecdotes of residents complaining about drunken revellers causing havoc as the bars let out on Friday and Saturday nights.
But some councillors felt the by-law went beyond the appropriate reach of council and limited free enterprise.
"It's not fair to the people who own the properties who are now going to be limited in who they can sell their properties to," said Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who voted against the by-law. "When you start limiting the number of people that can buy the building and eliminating some, you're reducing the value of the properties."
Mayor Rob Ford was not at council Friday. He had left for a trip to Winnipeg.
Richard Lambert is a co-owner of Queen West's Parts and Labour: a foodie-favourite eatery by day and a dimly lit dance hall by night. He said he was shocked the by-law was passed and felt it would hurt the development of the neighbourhood.
"With Parts and Labour, four years ago when we purchased the building, it was a vacant, out-of-business hardware store. Would [Mr. Perks] rather have a bunch of boarded up places or would you rather have something going on?" Mr. Lambert said.
Though he conceded Parkdale has its share of troublemakers, he questioned if the by-law would help curb bad behaviour.
"I think there could be some other issues that could be a little bit more important than restaurants that may be being overlooked."