City Licensing Issues

There’s an interesting news item making its way around today about a lawsuit against the City of Toronto and councilor Adam Vaughan. The suit alleges, among other things (or “inter alia”, as they taught us in law school) that the City and the councilor went overboard in applying municipal bylaws as against a downtown nightclub, in an effort to force it out of business.

The suit in essence, contends that the nightclub was singled out, and as a result received repeated visits from Police and bylaw enforcement officers, to the point of harassment. However, the particulars also seem to indicate that the nightclub acknowledges that it did not have the appropriate operating licenses in place.

Our firm has represented various types of businesses in licensing and compliance matters with the City, and luckily we’ve never had to resort to this sort of litigation to try to save them. That said, licensing matters are often complex – incredibly complex when dealing with historical issues, as is often the case by the time legal counsel gets involved.

In addition to the legal complexities of the interwoven federal, provincial and municipal legislation, there are other fields entirely that must be considered. For example, we regularly retain experts on planning and zoning issues. These experts regularly deal with the data gathering process that underlies everything from the making of a City Plan to minor variance applications. Together, we work with the City to understand the context of a business, the applicable licensing environment, the community impact of the business, and usually we find that there’s a way through an impasse.

It’s hard to tell if all attempts to work within the system were exhausted in the current litigation, but it’s unfortunate that it has gotten to this point. Hopefully there are still opportunities for a negotiated settlement that will see a balance between the needs of the community and the needs of the local business.

Scott R. Young