Robin Careless –
The Aug. 26 murder of Jelena Loncar outside of C Lounge at 456 Wellington St. W. triggered the Wellington Place Neighbourhood Association (WPNA) to call a community meeting on Sept. 29.
Police from 14 Division were in attendance along with representatives of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and the city’s municipal licensing and standards offices.
And while the lynchpin of the discussion was Loncar’s tragic death, the conversation quickly grew from a question of how the police will curb the violence to one of discussion how the police will keep noise levels down past 11 p.m. on weekends and how the city should handle crowd control in clubs, along with the prevalent taxi problem along area streets, particularly King St.
Inspector Barbara McLean from 14 Division was in attendance to discuss a plan of action. “The changing nature and geography of Toronto’s Entertainment District has been identified as a key issue for 14 Division,” she commented.
The club zone was traditionally delimited by King, Spadina, Richmond and Peter streets. Currently, the Toronto Entertainment District Residents’ Association defines its catchment area as south of Queen, north of Front, east of Spadina and west of University Ave.
In recent years, thanks to ongoing condo development and the efforts of residents, city staff and councillors, it has become more difficult to find space for a club or get a large-scale liquor license or patio license in the area. Club owners have moved their operations west into the Wellington Place and Garment District areas.
“Specifically, 14 Division has initiated discussions within the Toronto Police Service (TPS) to recognize this westward migration and to redefine the Entertainment District boundaries. Additional support will be sought to complement current efforts to address crime and disorder issues.”
“These issues must be appropriately managed if overall community safety and quality of life are to be maintained in this important area of the city.”
Also on hand were the AGCO’s Sgt. Heather Thompson and John DeCourcy, the city’s director of bylaw enforcement. DeCourcy agreed that there was a serious problem in the area, both with traffic congestion as well as late night noise complaints, and that bylaw officers are going to “take a holistic approach to the problem.”
The Entertainment District is full of nightclubs, theatres, and attractions designed to allow other—more residential—neighbourhoods to have a quieter noise level. Wellington Place, on the other hand, does not have the same density as the tourist-dense area east of Spadina.
And where residents of the newer condos in the Entertainment District have chosen to live in the centre of the action, WPNA residents have found that over the years the action has come to them.
One meeting attendee begged to differ. A man in his mid 20’s spoke and acknowledged the police service’s contribution to the area. He also pointed out that the average age in the room was older than his and that of his friends who also live within the extended reach of the Entertainment District. He went on to postulate that perhaps the gathered residents weren’t the ideal cross section of the residents of the Entertainment District, nor were they necessarily its intended audience. He was immediately shouted at by the entire room until he stopped talking and sat down.
Regardless of whether or not the residents in attendance were an accurate reflection of the Entertainment District’s typical citizenry or not, 14 Division, the city’s bylaw enforcement office and the AGCO are committed to balancing the wishes of the disgruntled citizenry with the purpose that the Entertainment District was built to fulfill.