Toronto city council has voted to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol as early as 7 a.m. this weekend for the final events of the Sochi Olympics.
Councillor Mike Layton moved a motion at council Thursday asking to extend the sale of alcohol to begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. That motion carried 37-4. These dates coincide with the final Olympic events, including the men's ice hockey games. Because of the time difference between Toronto and Sochi, the men's gold medal game is set to air at 7 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.
Currently, alcohol can only be sold in Ontario after 11 a.m.
"We've just watched the Canadian women take home the gold, and we're all very excited to see the men play tomorrow and over the weekend," Mr. Layton said Thursday. "There's something about watching a hockey game with friends. You're out, you're with friends you're with strangers, you're having a good time. You're cheers-ing, you get into the spirit of things. it's a community sense that comes from watching a hockey game, particularly if you're in the playoffs or the Olympics."
Mr. Layton said last week that he decided to move the motion after someone suggested it to him on Twitter, and emphasized that it's intended to encourage communities to gather and cheer on their country, rather than simply about consuming alcohol.
He added that he believes it will be more of a symbolic move than anything. "I don't think a lot of people will be taking us up on it at 6," he said. "I think it's more – have your coffee, have your brunch or breakfast, and then maybe have your beer at 10 or 10:30."
In May of 2010, Toronto city council passed a similar motion for the FIFA World Cup, which allowed bars and restaurants to serve alcohol as early as 10 a.m.
"We don't take the decision lightly. They're very carefully monitored, and really are one-offs for very special events," said Councillor Shelley Carroll.
"We can pretend that there isn't a relationship between two great Canadian activities: hockey playing and watching, and drinking beer, but there is. If it's going to happen anyways, you're better off having some regulation around it and some containment around it so you know what and where to enforce."
Mayor Rob Ford, who voted against the motion, argued that "it's not fair" for nightclubs to be excluded from the motion. "You can't have one cafe, one restaurant opening up, then having a club owner and say you can't," he said. "I just want to treat everyone equally, and that is not equally," he said.
When asked whether residents would want to watch the games at a club, he said "to each his own. Some teenagers might want to, or people of the younger generation might want to. Some other people want to stay in a cafe. Some other people want to be at a restaurant."
But Mr. Layton said that city staff recommended council not to extend the hours at nightclubs because it doesn't have enough staff to enforce the rules at larger-scale venues. "And those places typically are not outfitted for watching large games. They're not sports bars, they don't serve food, so they're not likely to be open at that time anyways, unless they're open from the night before."
The early hours will apply to restaurants and bars across all of the city except for the wards where councillors asked to be exempted: York Centre, York-South-Weston and Willowdale.