VibeLab helps shape the modernization of licensing and zoning laws of the City of Toronto

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Photography by Said Yassin, founder of It’s Ok*

In 2023, the City of Toronto commissioned VibeLab to conduct a study on the impact of zoning and licensing regulations on the city’s night economy. As a public consultation study, VibeLab upheld diversity, equity, inclusion and geographic representation as key considerations in the design of the outreach strategy and discussion questions. A stakeholder database was also curated, boasting over 300 prominent figures in Toronto’s nightlife scenes, entertainment industries and DIY arts communities. 

The process engaged approximately 3,300 participants over a four-week period from March–April 2023, through either an online survey and/or one of 10 community and industry-wide consultation meetings held in-person and online. 

The vast majority of respondents expressed a desire for more flexible regulations related to the temporary use of space (81%) and faster permit reviews (72%)

The issue with these licences is that you can’t define cultural gathering spaces in boxes…Especially for venues that support marginalized communities…the existing venues are having to take on more and more “hats” to fill a crucial need for certain communities…The licences do not encapsulate all these hat[s]…It’s impossible to.” – A survey respondent 

The small-group design of the consultation sessions facilitated reflection on the broader topics of equity, economic development, and public health topics as well as in-depth discussions across the four categories of: zoning, licensing, promoting neighbourhood coexistence at night and inclusion and barriers to access. 

To access the consultation findings, view the full report of the Night Economy Review.

Photography provided by the City of Toronto

“There is a growing trend towards multi-use spaces that bring value to a neighbourhood over 24 hours, perhaps acting as a coffee shop and co-working space by day, and a bar or event space by night. There could be special art galleries and installations beyond a single night of the year, not just during Nuit Blanche.” – VibeLab’s Co-Founder Mirik Milan in an interview with Toronto Star

What lies ahead

Findings from the VibeLab report helped to inform the recommendations presented by city staff at committee meetings later that fall. Before the year drew to a close, the City Council ultimately adopted amendments to the Licensing Bylaw and the Zoning Bylaws for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues which are expected to come into effect on January 1, 2025.

Carrying the momentum into 2024, the city held its inaugural Night Economy Town Hall on January 17, 2024, with the next scheduled for 2025.

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