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Beach ball cancelled but Aqua still afloat

City strike takes toll on major Pride party

At least one major party taking place this Pride weekend has been cancelled because of the Toronto city workers strike.

Joseph Patrick’s Beach Ball was postponed on Jun 23 because city officials withdrew the special event permit for the party at Hanlan’s Point on Centre Island.

Nearly 24,000 Toronto municipal workers walked off the job in the early morning of Jun 22, putting a halt to city-run services including daycares, recreation centres and garbage collection.

Toronto’s city strike involves two locals from the Canada Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 6,200 outside workers and 18,000 inside workers. The last time city workers walked off the job was in 2002, also around Pride week. The strike lasted for two weeks while mounds of uncollected garbage festered in the hot sun.

“Days into the current union strikes in Toronto, with no foreseeable end and a looming weekend deadline, it is with great dismay that I announce the postponement of The Beach Ball,” reads a statement posted by promoter Joseph Patrick on the Beach Ball’s official website.

The Beach Ball, which premiered in August last year, invites guests to hop on a ferry to the Toronto Islands and dance the afternoon away on the sand at Hanlan’s Point, Toronto’s only clothing optional beach. Alcohol is served on the beach and a stage is built for special DJ and drag performances.

Reviews of last year’s party were overwhelmingly positive. In an attempt to offer more variety at this year’s Pride, Patrick created a Pride edition of his Beach Ball party.

News that the event won’t go on as planned means both a financial loss and a big time downer for Patrick and his promotion team. 

“We’re pretty disappointed,” he says. “There was a lot riding on it.”

The strike also impacts Toronto’s ferry service to the island, which was one of Patrick’s initial concerns when word of a potential strike began circulating. But Patrick says he had a backup plan to get revelers to the island even without city ferries.

“We hired two big passenger vessels,” he says.

As for transporting the party’s stage materials to the beach, Patrick says he arranged for the ferry service at Toronto Island Airport to escort trucks across the lake.

Still, despite his initiatives, the city said no. “They said it would be illegal to hold an event and that if we went ahead and did it anyway, we’d either get shut down or arrested,” says Patrick.

Patrick says he tried to negotiate a deal with the city by hiring extra security for the event, but the city still refused to reinstate the permit. “We had all this stuff in place to make it a safe event,” says Patrick.

Patrick says the city has refunded the special event permit fee, which included permission to fence off a portion of Hanlan’s Point beach and serve booze. However, Patrick’s other costs, such as the money he had to pay up front for the scheduled performers, is long gone.

“There has been a financial loss,” says Patrick.

Meanwhile, Prism’s Aqua Beach Party, which takes place at Sunnyside Pavilion and on the nearby beach along Lakeshore Blvd, is still a go.

“We have the beach. Aqua is on as usual. Nothing has changed,” says Aqua’s art director and coproducer Gairy Brown. Rumours that Aqua had also lost its city permit and liquor licence because of the strike are false, says Brown.

Leisa Tjoeng, the City of Toronto’s communications advisor, confirmed that on Jun 23.

“The Sunnyside [Pavilion] event is going ahead as planned,” says Tjoeng, noting that Aqua’s permit still stands. Tjoeng says the beach at Hanlan’s Point can still be used, but for casual use only.

Patrick, though disappointed with the city’s decision, is planning on attending Prism’s Aqua party out of good sportsmanship. Because Prism’s Aqua party was happening on the same day and same time as Patrick’s Beach Ball, “A lot of people tried to pin us against Aqua,” says Patrick. “That was never our intent. It was about offering people another option at Pride.”

But Patrick’s Beach Ball hasn’t deflated entirely. The promoter plans to throw the event this upcoming Labour Day weekend. If you bought tickets to the Pride Beach Ball, hold on to them. Patrick says they will be honoured at the Labour Day event.