April 17, 2014 1:00 pm

Exhibition Place ban on electronic music events prompts backlash

TORONTO – A decision to ban electronic dance music events from being held at city-owned buildings at Exhibition Place last week has now spawned an online backlash.

And some councillors are trying to reverse the decision.

A city committee voted 4-3 Friday morning not to enter into agreement with electronic dance music promoters – a motion that effectively banned those types of events from the grounds.  Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti introduced the motion.

It’s for the safety of kids, he said.

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“[We’re] talking 5600 kids, many of them taking ecstasy on government lands owned by the taxpayers, I just think it’s wrong to be sending that message,” he said. “I don’t see the logic in that, if the private industry wants to have the venues in a private location then so be it.”

Private businesses on Exhibition Place grounds, like Muzik Nightclub, would still be able to host the events but with certain conditions Mammolliti said. Some of those restrictions would include sufficient numbers of paramedics, police officers and free water for everyone who comes in the door.

Muzik’s owner, Zlatko Starkovski, claims there’s a difference between the business he runs and other events being held nearby. “This is a 19-plus regulated venue. We deal with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, the police, all of the different standards,” he said.

The #BoycottMuzik hashtag is now trending on Twitter in Toronto and an online petition to keep EDM events at Exhibtion Place has more than 4000 signatures.

“I think it’s some of the promoters that are doing it,” Starkovski said. “But everybody that I talk to with younger brothers and sisters are happy with this decision.”

Multiple events are hosted by Ink Entertainment at the Better Living Centre and Direct Energy Centre throughout the year.  The company’s CEO, Charles Khabouth, has already started to secure other venues for future shows, but hasn’t given up the fight to stay.  “It’s a shame for the city and for taxpayers because the CNE grounds was making a lot of money.”

He’s not surprised by the reaction online either. “That tells you what all the kids and adults in the city want,” he said. “They want electronic music and they feel that the club on the CNE grounds is doing this for purely personal and selfish [reasons].”

The motion was accepted by the Exhibition Place board but was criticized heavily by Councillors Mike Layton and Gord Perks who voted against it.

And now a group of councillors is discussion if and how they can bring the matter to full city council for debate.

“Several of us are talking about whether and how council can weigh in on this [EDMs]. I’ve had some very promising conversations with a lot of my colleagues,” Perks said. “I think it’s dangerous for the city to ignore advice from Toronto’s public health department, from a coroner’s jury and force electronic music underground.”

The city originally began holding electronic dance music events at Exhibition Place 12 years ago at the urging of city staff to combat the use of illicit drugs in the city’s growing rave scene.

And the city is turning a profit from these events, bringing in approximately $1 million annually. Mammoliti’s not worried about that however, suggesting the city can rent out the building for other uses.

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