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Liquor cops make nice during Pride

Bar owners say Pride inspections improved

Thirteen licensed establishments in the gay village were charged with liquor offences during Pride Week, and 17 more were cautioned by police.

“There were a total of 135 licensed premise checks done that week,” says Const Wendy Drummond of Toronto Police Service’s 51 Division. “There were 14 Criminal Code charges and four Criminal Code cautions for public nudity.”

Supt Randal Munroe of 51 Division says that’s fewer charges than when 52 Division policed Church St and the rest of the Pride site.

“We try to get out in front of a lot of things that cause concern,” says Munroe. “These things don’t go off without a hitch, but I think it went well.”

Last year some bars complained that police officers and inspectors from the Alcohol And Gaming Commission Of Ontario (AGCO) were rude and aggressive during inspections. Things changed.

“The consensus was that we thought the police were betterthan usual, more polite and not as pushy,” says Dennis O’Connor, chair of the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“The general feeling was that inspections were more respectful,” says Stephen Clegg, assistant manager at Woody’s.

The BIA organized a meeting in early June with police and liquor inspectors to talk about what they felt went wrong last year. There was a wrap-up meeting for bar owners and managers shortly after Pride and there will be another one with the police in September.

“The intention of the BIA will be to send the police a report card at some point as to how they did this year,” says O’Connor. “We’re not sending it out for a few months, because apparently you can be charged up to five months after the event.”

O’Connor says that the first meeting had a substantial impact since owners and managers learned what the police were looking for. Munroe says safety issues are the first priority, particularly those around capacity.

“We don’t set capacity standards, we enforce them. Sometimes we need to protect people from themselves,” says Munroe.

Black Eagle manager Carlos Fileti says the bar, which hired contract security staff during Pride, had no problems with police this year.

“They were here and pleased to see the effort we put to comply with them.”

Larry Peloso, co-owner of Lüb, says the inspections seemed less invasive this year, though he says he wasn’t invited to the pre-Pride meeting.

“I think there needs to be more open communication in advance between police and owners,” Peloso says.

Among those charged with liquor offences this year are Mask, O’Grady’s and the Croissant Tree. AGCO spokesperson Ab Campion says it’s too early to talk about the specific charges.