June 20, 2013 10:54 am

City may restrict bars in Kensington Market

TORONTO – Is it possible to limit restaurants and bars to a percentage of the total businesses in Kensington Market?

That’s the question that city staff will soon be investigating after the Toronto and East York Community Council voted to undertake an analysis of Kensington Market and the feasibility of implementing restrictions on restaurants and bars in that area.

Kensington Market, is a small neighbourhood in Toronto west of Spadina Avenue between College Street and Dundas Street West typified by old buildings and was originally an outdoor market.

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There are still family-owned businesses in the area but according to some the area is quickly becoming a haven for restaurants which threaten to drive up rents and drive out locally-owned business.

Johnny Pacheco, a salesman at Sea Kings Fish Market says the only reason the shop –which has been in the neighbourhood for over 40 years – is still operating is that the owners also own the building.

He worries that the recent influx of bars threatens the identity of Kensington Market.

“They took over all the business. So all you see is coffee shops and restaurants. At one point we used to have 18 markets,” Pacheco said. “It’s just going to turn into a tourist attraction.”

On Tuesday, The Toronto and East York Community Council voted to enact a by-law that aims to restrict the total amount of bars on Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Roncesvalles Avenue to 25 per cent of the total businesses.

The by-law will need final approval from city council in July.

Now Councillor for Ward 20 Adam Vaughan wants the council to study the possibility of extending a similar bylaw to Kensington Market.

In the letter, Vaughan expresses concern that businesses able to sell alcohol are able to pay higher rents which in turn, may drive out raw food sellers which, he says “have been the core of Kensington Market for generations.”

“Significant change happening to our retail areas in the downtown and I believe that a balance must be struck to ensure that walkable, neighbourhood-based retail and food uses are maintained,” Vaughan wrote.

And Mike Shepherd, Chair of the Kensington Market BIA thinks a cap on the amount of bars and restaurants in the area could be a good idea.

“If you have an entire area that is licensed, rents are going to go through the roof. You’re not going to have any raw food sellers, you’re not going to have a bagel shop, you’re not going to have bakeries.” Shepherd said in an interview on Wednesday.

He added that the patrons and residents of Kensington Market are different than the Entertainment District or King Street West and that should be reflected in the neighbourhood.

“This is an area where people come to shop, eat, go out to a bar, have dinner, have a drink in the afternoon, so it’s a different type of animal that we’re dealing with here,” he said.

But can’t we all just get along? Tim Michalik, owner of Tom’s Place in Kensington Market, admits that people think of fish markets, raw food, used clothing and bakeries when they think of the neighbourhood but suggests that new restaurants, bars and coffee shops aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

“There’s seems to be a great revival with the new restaurants, with the new coffee shops and these establishments are still owned by a mom and pop. There’s a new coffee shop that opened across the street from me, brings new and fresh customers to the market,” Michalik said. “There’s a lot of energy in Kensington Market.”

© Shaw Media, 2013

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