Council asks province to pull licenses for bars connected to gun crime

Toronto city council wants more action from the booze police to stop gun crime.

By a vote of 19-4, councillors moved to ask the provincial government to direct the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to pull liquor licenses for establishments that have been the scene of shootings, where patrons have carried guns or where police have found guns.

"They're just energy vampires, these bars, and they're dangerous places," said author of the motion, Mike Colle. "We have to at least get some more teeth in what the AGCO does."

While the wording of his motion does not reflect it, Colle suggests perhaps licenses could be suspended for as little as a day and that only bars and restaurants with three or four instances be penalized.

Councillor Gord Perks thinks the province can sort out what sort of circumstances warrant discipline, but felt it important to send a message to Queen's Park.

"It is incumbent on this council to remind them again and again and again that they are treating the right to sell alcohol as a 'get out of jail free' card," Perks said.

NEWSTALK 1010 has asked the office of Ontario's Attorney General if it intends to follow through on council's request but has not received a response.

Former Toronto Police detective Mark Mendelson is sceptical of the proposal.

NEWSTALK 1010's crime specialist says such a policy wouldn't be effective at fighting gun crime because there's often no way for a bar owner to tell who is armed and who isn't, beyond physically searching each patron or 'wanding' them with a metal detector.

Mendelson says, pushing more responsibility for the behaviour of customers is risky for bar staff and management. He believes pressuring them to report sketchy clients, or to bounce possible troublemakers themselves could lead to violence..

Councillor Stephen Holyday raised similar concerns

"Restaurant and bar owners now have to start to screen their patrons and I worry about where that could go," Holyday said.

with files from Siobhan Morris and James Moore