Toronto

Toronto live venues to get permanent tax break as music scene revs back up, city says

Toronto will reduce property taxes for eligible live music venues permanently, Mayor John Tory said on Monday.

City tax relief program helped 48 venues in 2020 and 58 venues last year, Mayor John Tory says

Mayor John Tory speaks to reporters at the Baby G live music venue in Toronto on Monday. (CBC )

At a time when live music is making a comeback across the city after two years of COVID-19 restrictions, Toronto will reduce property taxes for eligible concert venues permanently, Mayor John Tory said on Monday.

Tory said city council lowered property taxes for live music venues in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic to show support for the local music industry. The city said 48 venues in 2020 and 58 venues in 2021 received the benefit, with an average savings of $18,995. 

The city has decided to make the tax break program permanent, Tory said.

The mayor, speaking at a news conference at the Baby G, a live music venue and bar in the west end, encouraged residents to show their support by attending shows in Toronto. Tory said venues across the city have been opening or reopening, including well-known concert halls and clubs such as Massey Hall and the El Mocambo and new large spaces such as History and new small spaces such as Café Pamenar.

"We need to people to get out there and do that starting now," Tory said.

"These venues are open now. They have expenses now, they always have. And they have musical acts on now. And they need people to buy the tickets, buy the drinks and be supportive." 

A sign outside a well-known music venue in Toronto is pictured here. (CBC)

Tory said the city made the move to to prevent live music venues from going out of business.

"The assessment on some of those buildings was going up high because it was assumed they would all be turned into condos, which we don't want, but that caused the taxes to go up and that in turn made it almost impossible for a music venue to exist," he said.

According to the city, eligible live music venues in Toronto have saved $1.7 million collectively per year through the tax break.

Jeff Cohen, president and CEO of Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe Tavern, said he has saved $110,000 in property taxes a year through the city's tax break.

"That's incredible. It's the greatest thing that the City of Toronto has ever done for live music operators," Cohen said. "It's probably kept us alive."

Jeff Cohen, president and CEO of Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe Tavern, says of the property tax reduction: 'It's the greatest thing that the city of Toronto has ever done for live music operators in the city. It's probably kept us alive.' (CBC)

Cohen said the two venues are open six days a week now. His two venues have created 60 jobs.

Toronto's live music venues generate an economic impact of $850 million annually, while providing the equivalent of 10,500 full-time jobs, the city said in a news release on Monday.

In addition, the release said:

  • The city's music office's City Hall Live series will return this summer with City Hall Live After Dark. This year's focus will include live music events happening outside downtown to reflect the diversity of the city's social culture at night.
  • YYZ Live, the city's music office's program with Toronto Pearson Airport that features live music, is back this year. Performances began on March 14 and will continue through to Thursday, March 31. 

JUNOs back in Toronto

On May 15, Toronto will host the 2022 JUNO Awards, with JUNO week events taking place from May 9 to 15.

Allan Reid, president of the JUNO Awards, said it will be the first time in their history that they'll be broadcast from an outdoor location — the Budweiser stage. Performers include the Arkells, Avril Lavigne and Arcade Fire.

"It's been actually 11 years since the JUNOs were officially back in Toronto," Reid said.

The show will be broadcast nationwide on Sunday, May 15, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBC Music, CBC-TV, CBC Gem and CBC Radio One, and globally on CBCMusic.ca/junos.

    With files from Dale Manucdoc and Muriel Draaisma

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