Kensington Market residents square off with group applying for 600-people liquor licence
Hospitality group wants to open music venue in space that once housed Fairland Grocery
The old Fairland Grocery store is one of the biggest spaces in Kensington Market, and if hospitality group Beats, Eats and Life gets their way, it will soon be Toronto's newest place to watch live music.
J. Joly, one of the founders of Beats, Eats and Life, describes their vision for the 1950's family grocery as, "a significant venue for cultural, and especially music-forward, independent artists."
They say the plan is to open up a small restaurant in the front of the building, and convert the rest into a multi-purpose space, which would include a live music venue.
"We expect to do a lot more stuff around rehearsal rooms, recording studios, vinyl presses and stuff like that, within the space," Joly said.
This is not the group's first attempt to bring art to the Fairlands building.
This past summer they proposed an adult playground called Fairland Funhouse which was to include an art maze and virtual reality exhibits.
While it was supposed to open last August, that project has been put on hold until the spring.
The plan would be to incorporate some of those ideas into the new project.
Where things fall apart for the residents of Kensington Market, is the size of the liquor licence Beats, Eats and Life is applying for.
They want a licence for 612 people, which would accommodate the entire space, and not just the small restaurant they are proposing for the front of the building.
"Six hundred people has a huge impact," said Dominique Russell, a member of a group called 'Friends of Kensington Market.'
Russell says many residents are concerned that this will become more of a nightclub atmosphere.
"There's residents within five metres of that building," she said. "If you think about that as a licensed venue, it would be one of the biggest licensed venues in the city, in one of the densest neighbourhoods."
The two sides met for several hours Tuesday to discuss the issues. Lawyer Ryan MacIsaac was there to represent Beats, Eats and Life.
"We've been clear from the beginning, no nightclub, we do not intend to open a nightclub," MacIsaac said. "In order to make that a sustainable, viable business model, we do need to have liquor sales."
That may be the plan now, but Russell says people are concerned that plans could easily change if they are granted a liquor licence of that size.
"What we're concerned about is the long-term impact of a liquor licence of that size in the market. It's a concern as well for the character of the market," Russell said.
Tuesday's meeting ended in a stalemate, with neither side willing to budge. MacIsaac says Beats, Eats and Life will now take their appeal to the next level.
"There will be a hearing before the licence appeal tribunal, most likely in late February, early March," he said.