2 min

Unity goes on

Pride party escapes rave ban

MAYOR MEL. If we were on ecstasy, we'd hug you. Credit: Xtra files

The massive Pride party Unity is safe – despite a ban on raves held on city property that Toronto politicians passed last week.

“It’s a cultural event,” says promoter Michael Schwarz, explaining how the Sat, Jun 24 all-night dance party came out in the clear.

And there’s the booze. When the liquor board is involved, a heap of rules must be adhered to – including an age limit. “You have to be aged 19 to attend one of our events, and that’s a big difference…. People who drink don’t do drugs, and people who do drugs don’t drink. In fact, it’s definitely a bad idea to mix,” says Schwarz.

“At one time, people thought our events might be at risk,” he acknowledges. There was a lot of concern: Is Caribana a rave, he asks. What about Fashion Cares?

The official city definition includes a mix of all ages, electronic music and that it’s a commercial venture.

Under questioning from gay City Councillor Kyle Rae, Mayor Mel Lastman made a point, during the May 10 city council debate, of saying that Unity could go ahead. It’s held on CNE land.

As chair of the city’s AIDS subcommittee, Rae shepherded a motion to keep raves on city property and to continue harm reduction education about drugs.

He voted against Lastman’s motion to ban raves for the next two months. (However, there weren’t any raves planned until the fall, in any case.)

Three raves have been held under the city’s umbrella at the CNE grounds. There have been dozens of drug-related arrests, but no deaths. An inquest is now looking into the ecstasy-related death of 21-year-old Ryerson student Allan Ho – who collapsed in a warehouse last year.

Even on city property, says Rae, “people have been taken away [by ambulance] for overdoses, bad reactions…. They’ll go elsewhere, in properties that are not fire coded, that don’t have ambulance staff, without police, [places that are] unsafe.”

Rae wishes more attention was paid to after-hours clubs. “My concern is the gunplay; it’s not at raves. All the safety measures are in place.”

Ambulances are ready and waiting at Unity, says Schwarz, though no serious problem has ever come up.

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Industry Nightclub is shutting down, in part because of hassles from the city.

“The partners are all focussing on different projects,” says publicist Charlene Ma. “The other reason is yes, the pressure from the city. Zoning and the whole investigation into the after-hours scene.”

Industry (at 901 King St W) is zoned as a restaurant. “We have done our best to comply. We added tables and chairs and the free fruit buffet…. but it’s just a lot more stress.”

Ma blames Trinity-Niagara City Councillor Joe Pantalone. Pantalone’s office says the club causes noise and litter.

Industry’s partners are moving on. Daniel Bellavance owns Five (5 St Joseph St), DJ Matt C (Matthew Casselman) is part owner of NASA dance pub, Mario Jukica is moving to New York to continue producing music, and Gavin Bryan will put on larger dance events.

The club closes Sun, Aug 6.