Can I Get You A Subway In Scarborough With That?
Sigh. This "4am last call" thing is the new "subways, subways, subways". An idea that sounds great until you actually have to make it work.
I'm all about nightlife. I was a bouncer, worked my way up to head of security for a big nightlife group, owned, marketed and operated a very busy venue of my own and am now one of the more respected nightclub promoters in the city. I can confidently say, that no one who owns / operates a bar and who knows wtf they are doing would agree with this.
It seems like a good idea until you, you know...have to start paying people, finding a way home or making a profit. Toronto's drinking culture, transit plan (hahahaha, do we even have one?), not to mention provincial laws have to change massively before this results in anything other than bars just opening at midnight or half the industry going bankrupt.
Venue costs would go up significantly, community safety would NOT improve and the sales wouldn't go up to match the increased costs.
And please don't say "People'll stop pre-drinking!"...no they wouldn't. People pre-drink to get a buzz and alot more of them do it so they don't have to spend more at the bar. It's just how it is.
Alot of venues dont even bother with the 4AM extended last call during TIFF or other big special events because the 2 extra hours in sales don't cover the added cost and headaches, not to mention anyone trying to enter your venue past 2am is already probably intoxicated, which puts your license at risk per the AGCO rules...and then we don't have transit to get people home safely that late.
What should change is the 2:45am signs of service rules, which is a big reason why bars push everyone out at the same time. A venue can get charged if "signs that you are serving" (Signs Of Service) are still present at that time, ie glasses, bottles, hell, even DJ's still playing, etc...as security, you wanna get the place empty as possible so you can start clearing all that shit. If the AGCO shows up, you can and WILL get charged and its a very serious offence. 4AM last call sounds great if you wanna just party and get hammered, but its pointless unless there is a seismic change in Toronto's "Drinking culture".
Alot of people talk about how it would improve the "experience". There won't be an "experience" to speak of when the owners of those venues decide they got sick of losing money or lose staff to smaller venues or more well funded venues that can wait out that culture shift and are ready and willing to pay for it.
DJ driven, EDM venues would thrive because their ppl lineup till 5am and booze isn't a big part of their business model...door charge and expensive water are. I wouldnt open a venue bigger than 250-300 people MAX in this city. Those venues would thrive. They are small and would "stay" busy. In the meantime, anything else would die off. Bars are a business and staffing costs, especially with doormen are your next biggest expense after rent and inventory. Extending the last call to 4am is pointless due to all the other issues, PLUS you wouldn't make more money. You'd be left with the same spend over a longer period...until the "culture" changed or people in Toronto got alot richer.
In my opinion, the Transit issue is way more important to a healthy / vibrant nightlife and def something I could get behind. Its fucking brutal how things are now. And not the shitty Blue Night bs, the Subway should stop at 4am on weekends and would practically have to run 24 hours.
Even GO should have an option to get ppl home safely (again, not cost effective, but still).
The incremental costs that bars would have to deal with including staff, cleaning crews, extra inventory, etc...while ur waiting for that magical break even point...and drinking culture to change? That would put alot of bars out of business in a hurry.
Bars are already having a hard enough time getting people into them before 1130 as it is, extending the last call just increases costs without a proven benefit in sales. Yes, some places could just close their doors after it stops making money...then you put yourself at a competive disadvantage when it comes to staffing.
There's also the transient nature of the scene in Toronto. The average bar spend is only $35 / person because people like to bounce around. At my club, it was up near $55, because people had no options to go to around us, we made an awesome party and we served food. Once they got there, we made sure they stayed.
Then you have the provincial legislation which is already heavily weighted against bars. At any particular moment any bar in the province could be shut down for "permitting drunkenness". And drunkenness is defined by slurred speech, glassy eyes, etc...the laws are written that way on purpose. You can exhibit signs of intoxication after 3 drinks. ANYONE exhibiting "signs of intoxication" that are ALREADY IN or allowed into a venue can result in that venue license being suspended for a month. Keep in mind, if you're a notorious lightweight like me, you can exhibit signs of intoxication after 3 drinks. It's not "fall over drunk"...it's "intoxicated". There is no breathalyzer, it's all "eye-balled" by the inspector and there's no arguing it.
And the laws are written like that on purpose. Yes, the reality is, if the province wanted to shut down any bar, they could, for "intoxication". Just the way it is. When I was bouncing do you know how many times I heard "EVERYBODY IN HERE IS INTOXICATED" when I was kicking someone out? And my answer was "I don't make the rules buddy". And if you think nothing that arbitrary can be taken seriously, we got fined TWICE for violations...one for NOT wanding an on-duty officer with a badge and a gun on his hip..."per the requirement of your liqour license", then fined again for attempting to wand an on duty officer with a badge and a gun on her hip...a week later.
I'd love to see more vibrant nightlife in Toronto, but something like this would have to be gradual so the culture has time to catch up and implemented in phases.
A call for a blanket change is great for the debate it stirs, but not practical without alot of bars going under. Alot of things sound like a good idea until you know the full situation...just like building subways in Scarborough.