Toronto Takes Proactive Action to Save Cultural Venues
TORONTO – “Before this pandemic, Toronto had a vibrant, diverse and growing night economy and I am determined that our recovery will see it return. Live music venues make a vital contribution to Toronto’s economic, social and cultural life, employing artists and others in the music industry, anchoring Toronto’s diverse cultural communities, providing local musicians with a launchpad for their careers, and helping to shape a civic identity that values and promotes music and culture,” states Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Toronto City Council has approved recommendations to help address the unprecedented challenges threatening live music venues in Toronto. Council expanded the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses to provide property tax relief for live music venues.
Live music venues, live music festivals, dining restaurants, and many similar businesses are all facing serious challenges from COVID-19. Social distancing will mean far fewer people able to attend venues even at some point when they are allowed to open.
Across Canada many restaurants and bars have already announced closures. The same holds true North America wide.
In Toronto, the new category will apply to live music venues that meet specific eligibility criteria.
“Over the past 10 years, The Garrison’s overhead (rent, utilities, insurance, and property tax) has gone up over 300 percent. The proposed property tax reduction will make a huge difference meeting these increased financial obligations. With the prospect of prolonged closure due to the current COVID-19 emergency, the property tax reduction will prove to be a vital financial tool in navigating the road to reopening and recovery,” states Shaun Bowring, Owner/Operator of The Garrison & The Baby G and member of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee.
As Toronto’s live music venues make a vital contribution to the city’s economic, social and cultural life and these businesses need critical support in the face of ongoing pressures that threaten to close dozens of local venues – pressures that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit live music venues especially hard. We must find new ways to support our local musicians and live music industry, and to ensure that it emerges more inclusive and sustainable than before the pandemic. This property tax relief proposal could make a huge difference for eligible concert halls and cultural institutions that are struggling right now, and that we as a city can’t afford to lose,” adds Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee.
The Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses were established by City Council and the Province of Ontario to support the affordability and sustainability of cultural and creative spaces in Toronto. This tax relief mechanism was first made available in 2018 for qualifying properties acting as creative hubs with creative tenants. In 2019, the criteria were expanded to include membership-based co-working facilities for creative workers and enterprises.
The expansion of the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses to include live music venues is part of the City’s COVID-19 recovery efforts and is consistent with Council directives to promote Toronto as a city that values music and musicians. It is intended that this measure will remain in place beyond this year to support the long-term viability of the live music sector.
“The survival of venues is essential to the music ecosystem. Venues provide a vital development platform for artists, and live performances are often the financial basis for many young artists’ incomes and businesses. Therefore it isn’t only the music venues that are hurt by closures and bankruptcies – so are artists and the many other music industry professionals that support them,” comments Mary Am Blom, Co-Chair of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee.
“Commercial property tax relief for Toronto live music venues won’t just help existing venues survive COVID-19, but has the potential to double the number of our city’s venues – both by spurring commercial landlords to lease to aspiring new venues, as well as providing an economic incentive for existing spaces to create new stages for live music, which in turn greatly benefits all local music artists,” concludes Jeff Cohen, Owner of the Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace and member of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee.