The company behind a controversial plan to expand a Toronto waterfront nightclub says it wants to negotiate a settlement with the City of Toronto and harbour residents, even as it fights them at a tribunal.
“We’re seeking to provide entertainment to the patrons that come from inside the city, outside the city, internationally, in a manner that doesn’t disturb either the island residents or the mainland residents,” Powerhouse Corp. lawyer Richard Kulim said Friday during a break at a hearing of the provincial licensing appeals tribunal.
“We’re hoping we can negotiate a settlement that will meet the concerns of the residents and allow the (liquor licence) applicant to operate a good and profitable business.”
Negotiations continue around a proposed expansion of the remodeled Rebel nightclub and outdoor Cabana pool bar on a Polson St. site formerly occupied by Sound Academy concert hall and, before that, the Docks complex.
City lawyers and others representing residents of waterfront condos and island cottages vehemently oppose any changes that envision live outdoor music until 11 p.m. and possibly recorded tunes until 2 a.m. closing.
Powerhouse is negotiating but also hedging its bets with the appeal of an Alcohol and Gaming Commission ruling. The AGCO said the company failed to follow proper procedure while seeking the new liquor licence that would relax strict rules on allowable bar capacity, noise levels and more.
Barry Lipton is a longtime Ward’s Island resident and veteran of a past battle that saw the AGCO pull the plug on the Docks and its booming music. He wants no relaxation of the resulting strict conditions that have, in recent years, seen relative peace between the current club and its harbour neighbours.
“I lived through the Docks experience, that was a two- or three-year battle and it looks like that’s what we’re in for again,” he said after watching witnesses testify and be cross-examined in a packed downtown hearing room.
“The nightclub is in it for the money.”
City Councillor Paula Fletcher testified Friday that current rules on the site work well. Requested changes would see bar use dominate a downtown Lake Ontario shoreline enjoyed by homeowners, businesses and visitors, she said.
“I don’t know why Powerhouse wants to increase everything to the point of dominating the waterfront,” she said.
Kulim argues that’s not the intention of Powerhouse, a company he said involves a trust of the wealthy Kiel family working with some current Rebel/Cabana operators. Nightclub tycoon Charles Khabouth has been among them.
The liquor licence application filed by Powerhouse Corp. in May 2015 seeks to increase the bar capacity to 7,548 people indoors and 7,971 people outdoors — crowds that would make it one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Kulim said in an interview Powerhouse now envisions an indoor capacity of 3,735 downstairs and 830 on the second floor, and 3,500 at the outdoor pool bar patio.
The tribunal on Friday also heard opposition to the application from downtown Councillor Pam McConnell. Barring a negotiated settlement in the meantime, Powerhouse representatives are expected to plead their case when hearings resume in June.
A tribunal decision could come as early as fall. Some observers, however, expect the fight to end up in court.