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Eric Macedo, owner of Midpoint, a restaurant located on Queen Street West in Toronto. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Eric Macedo, owner of Midpoint, a restaurant located on Queen Street West in Toronto. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto Councillor defends move to quiet Queen West Add to ...

The city is moving to cool development in another downtown strip - this time West Queen West, which in the space of a few years went from seedy to smoking, raising the hackles and disturbing the sleep of area residents in the process.

Adam Giambrone, the local city councillor, said restrictions virtually identical to those placed on Ossington Avenue last month will address residents' concerns by curbing the proliferation of rowdy bars and restaurants while ensuring a mix of more desirable establishments on the narrow strip - the four blocks between Dovercourt Road and Gladstone Avenue that fall within his ward.

But residents who have been lobbying the city to slow bar and club development for years argue the new bylaws will hurt both businesses and their neighbours.

"No one wins," said Misha Glouberman, one of the founding members of the Queen Beaconsfield Residents Association, which first asked the city in 2004 to rein in restaurant-bar proliferation.

"They don't actually address most of the concerns neighbours have, and at the same time, they create a lot of restrictions on businesses that I think are difficult for the businesses but that don't actually serve the needs of neighbours at all. So it's not even a compromise. It's sort of worse than a compromise."

As with Ossington Avenue, where the city ended a six-month moratorium on restaurant development in November and brought in new rules, restaurants and bars on those few blocks of Queen Street West can't be larger than 175 square metres, can't have dance floors or DJ spaces, and rear or rooftop patios are forbidden, as are second-floor eatery add-ons. Existing restaurants that don't comply with the new bylaw can continue to operate.

Midpoint Bistro owner Eric Macedo laughs when he hears the proposed new rules: He went out of his way to make room for a DJ when he opened, and it's one of his biggest draws.

"I purposely built it so it could have that dual role, and left the front open so that my DJ and his booth would be right in front of what would be a dance floor."

Mr. Macedo had hoped to build a patio in the concrete laneway outside his building - replacing the asphalt with a wooden deck and showcasing the graffiti artwork put up last summer - and expand his establishment to the second floor. Now he can't do either.

Sure, he's had his share of noise complaints, but said he's soundproofing the walls to mitigate that.

What Mr. Glouberman would really like is some sort of limit on the number of bars in a given area - if not a hard cap, then at least something that would restrict the sheer volume of tipsy patrons emptying out into his neighbourhood in the wee hours.

"The biggest concern neighbours have is that the number of bars is out of control," he said. "As far as I know, no one had a complaint about bars on second floors."

Although a staff report going before community council next month notes that residents requested that the city limit the concentration of late-night drinking establishments as other cities have done, it concludes this isn't feasible in Toronto: The city doesn't legally differentiate between restaurants and bars, and placing a limit on the number of restaurants in a given area would be "inappropriate."

But Mr. Giambrone said the proposed rules would have the effect residents are looking for without putting a cap on new bars or eateries.

"Over a period of time it will create a different character of the neighbourhood than is there today - one that probably has a smaller number of these [bar]establishments because of the nature of the bylaw," he said. "What we're trying to do is manage that change responsibly … so it doesn't get totally out of hand."

These changes come as the city gears up for an ambitious attempt to harmonize bylaws across the city to address challenges arising in residential areas seeing a growth in restaurants, pubs and entertainment-related establishments.

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