This “4 am last call” thing is the new “subways, subways, subways”. An idea that sounds great until you actually have to make it work. Toronto Nightlife and Hospitality expert, Ken Bryan, tells us why he thinks 4 am last call in Toronto should be left an idea.
I’m all about nightlife. I was a bouncer. I worked my way up to the head of security for a big nightlife group. I owned, marketed and operated a very busy venue of my own and now, have either consulted with or held senior marketing positions with some of the city’s biggest hospitality companies.
And with my experience, I can confidently say that no one who owns/operates a bar and knows WTF they are doing would agree to extending last call to 4 am.
It seems like a good idea until you, you know, have to start paying people, finding a way home or make a profit. Toronto’s drinking culture, transit plan (do we even have one?), and not to mention provincial laws, have to change massively before this results in anything other than bars being subjected to pushing opening to midnight or half of the industry going bankrupt.
But first, let’s start with how extending last call would affect venue owners.
Venue costs would go up significantly. The incremental costs that bars would have to deal with include: staffing, cleaning crews, extra inventory, potentially paid duty police, all adding up while venue owners are waiting for that magical break even point. That would put a lot of bars out of business in a hurry.
Many venues don’t even bother with the 4am extended last call during TIFF or other major special events because the extra 2-hours in sales don’t cover the added cost and headaches. Not to mention, anyone trying to enter your venue past 2 am is probably already intoxicated, which puts your license at risk per the current AGCO rules… And then we don’t have transit to get people home safely that late.
Which brings me to the next issue – transit.
In my opinion, the transit issue is way more important to a healthy and vibrant nightlife. It’s definitely something I could get behind. It’s brutal how things are now and the way the debates in city council are going, I don’t see it improving. The money they are sinking into the one-stop subway in Scarborough – that’s destined to cost us billions and lose us millions each year – should be invested into running the weekend services later and more frequently. And seeing as how many people out on weekends come from outside the city, GO should offer an option to get those commuting longer distances home safely.
On the consumer side…
4 am last call sounds great if you just want to party all night and get hammered, but it’s pointless unless there is a seismic change in Toronto’s “drinking culture”. Pre-drinking and the transitory nature of people out on the town are two that come to mind immediately.
And please don’t say, “People will stop pre-drinking!” Because, no, they won’t. People pre-drink to get a buzz and a lot more of them do it so they don’t have to spend more at the bar.
Bars are already having a hard enough time getting people into them before 11:30 pm, extending the last call just increases costs without a proven benefit in sales. And with pre-drinking culture, it’s likely patrons would start pre-drinking even later to keep their stamina at par with extended last call.
So who would actually benefit from 4 am last call?
DJ-driven, EDM venues would thrive because their customers line up all night – booze isn’t the biggest part of their business model… Door charge is. Small live music venues would also thrive. Their size would ensure the necessary critical mass to “stay” busy.
In the meantime, if 4 am last call is implemented, anything else would die off.
Like I said before, extending the last call is pointless. Long story short, venue owners wouldn’t make any more money.
A lot of people talk about how extending last call to 4 am would improve the “experience”. There won’t be an “experience” to speak of when the owners of the city’s venues decide they’re sick of losing money or end up losing staff to smaller or better-funded venues that can wait out a culture shift and are willing and able to pay for it.
I’d love to see more vibrant nightlife in Toronto, but something like this would have to be gradual so the culture has time to catch up and implemented in phases.
A call for a blanket change is great for the debate it stirs, but not practical. And like the “subway in Scarborough), it sounds great until you have to actually start paying for it.
Do you think Toronto should extend last call until 4 am? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.