2 min

Nudity & liquor laws

Totally Naked Toronto Men in court

Credit: Xtra files

Lawyers for The Barn and Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity say they were double-crossed by the police.

The Barn and TNT Men will be in court on Fri, May 10 to contest a single charge of permitting disorderly conduct that was laid under the Ontario Liquor Licence Act at the April 2000 TNT Men dance held at The Barn.

In order to avoid such a charge, they had approached Superintendent Aidan Maher, the head of 52 Division, to find out what they should do.

“The Barn and TNT Men had a deal with Supt Maher,” says Peter Simm, counsel for TNT Men, who is assisting The Barn’s lawyer Andrew Chernik. “The deal was that if we required a ticket for admission and did not sell those tickets at the door, there would be no further charge under that regulation.” Maher is expected to be called as a witness.

When Chernik walks into court on May 10, it’s expected that one of his defences will be “officially induced error.” According to Simm, it’s relatively new to the law books. It’s used when someone seeks advice from a person with the authority and knowledge to tell them how to comply with the law, does what they’re told and is still charged.

Regardless of that defence, Simm doesn’t believe they’re guilty. He says that if the people at the bar were genuinely surprised by the nudity, that would have created an actual disturbance. However, seeing as how it was an event held by Totally Naked Toronto Men, it’s unlikely anybody there was shocked.

Chernik will tell the court that a precedent was set in a similar case in 1980 at a hotel in Northern Ontario. A stripper was charged and convicted of the criminal code offense of being nude in a public place without a lawful excuse. The bar owner was prosecuted for permitting disorderly conduct, but the decision was reversed by the Liquor License Appeals tribunal which held that nudity in circumstances where nobody is offended doesn’t constitute disorderly conduct.

“The facts in that case are more extreme than with the situation at The Barn where no criminal charges were laid,” says Simm. “It’s a decision which unfortunately the police and the provincial prosecutor up to this point have ignored.”

After the charge was laid, The Barn and TNT Men tried to contact Maher, but didn’t get any answers.

“We don’t know for sure what happened. At best, we can figure that he failed to adequately communicate the deal and what he had told us to the police officers in 52 Division who were actually carrying out liquor license inspections,” says Simm. He says he spoke with the senior officer in the group conducting the liquor license inspection, and the officer denied any knowledge of the deal, despite details having been printed in both Xtra and Eye.

“TNT Men has been very gratified by the solidarity that the Barn’s owner, Janko Naglic, has shown by not cutting a deal with the provincial prosecutor,” says Simm. “TNT Men have searched long and hard for any other venue with a dance floor where we could hold an event with or without alcohol in the village, and with the trial against The Barn hanging over everyone it’s been impossible for us to find an alternate venue.”