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The 519 rakes in record $375k at beer garden

Cawthra Park filled with happy, thirsty gays

Dancers from Arabesque perform at Starry Nights June 30, part of The 519's Green Space on Church programming. Credit: Andrea Houston
Two days before the parade, staff at the 519 Church Street Community Centre knew that their beer garden was a runaway success.
 
Among the signs? They were running low on booze.
 
It was a good problem to have, and it prompted the first of three extra trips to the liquor store over the course of the weekend.
 
By Saturday, they had completely drained all their kegs and moved on to canned beer. By the final hour of their Sunday-night dance party, they had run out of alcohol altogether.
 
Preliminary numbers from The 519 show a staggering year of growth. Liquor sales topped $375,000, compared to roughly $225,000 in 2010.
 
Over the course of the weekend, organizers counted 40-45,000 visits to the park, compared with 21,000 in 2010.
 
Dubbed the Green Space on Church, The 519 closed off the bulk of neighbouring Cawthra Square Park for four days, from June 30 to July 3. The site, just steps from the Church-Wellesley intersection, included beer tents, a stage and a dancefloor. Programming ran until midnight each day.
 
Matthew Cutler, The 519’s communications manager, says it was a combination of luck, good planning and opportunity that made the event such a success.
 
They were buoyed by good weather, the Canada Day long weekend and Pride Toronto’s trimmed-back programming, Cutler says.
 
And importantly, those who came had a good time.
 
“People loved the space, loved the vibe. Torontonians, people in the neighbourhood, they saw their friends here,” Cutler says.
 
The City of Toronto pays for The 519’s building and maintenance costs, but programming is financed through fundraising and corporate donations.
 
And that makes events like the Green Space on Church — their biggest annual fundraiser — crucial to the centre’s success.
 
“In addition to being a great party, and a great time for everyone, it has a lasting legacy,” Cutler says.