The future of live music in Toronto is still uncertain, but music venues just received a bit of relief.
Venues can now apply for a property tax reduction which will reduce their property tax by 50 per cent.
The idea was first proposed in a meeting of Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC) on May 13 and has now been fast-tracked through city council, which voted to adopt the motion on Thursday.
The measure is part of the city’s COVID-19 recovery efforts and relief will be immediate for venue owners and operators. Applications will be open until June 19 at 5 pm. Eligible venues can email livemusicvenuetax [at] toronto.ca to request an application form.
The criteria are similar those first discussed at TMAC: venues must compensate artists for performances, have some infrastructure (a fixed stage area, sound booth, etc) and employ certain venue staff. The venue can also have a maximum capacity of 1,500 people.
Newer clauses include an expansion from the need to present live music a minimum of 144 days annually. If venues were closed by emergency orders as a result of the pandemic, they must present live music 40 per cent of all operating days within the calendar year. Full eligibility criteria are available here.
The music office estimates that 60 venues in Toronto will be eligible and encourages operators to apply if they own the property or otherwise work with their landlord – the landlord will pass on the savings to the venue. The tax relief will be retroactive to January 1, 2020.
Shaun Bowring, owner of the Garrison, says his venue’s overhead rent has gone up over 300 per cent in the last decade.
“The proposed property tax reduction will make a huge difference meeting these increased financial obligations,” he says. “With the prospect of prolonged closure due to the current COVID-19 emergency, the property tax reduction will prove to be a vital financial tool in navigating the road to reopening and recovery.”
The tax relief will not just apply to the pandemic, but will continue once everything reopens. For Jeff Cohen, owner of the Horseshoe and Lee’s Palace, it won’t just help venues through the pandemic but will strengthen the live music scene beyond it.
”[It] has the potential to double the number of our city’s venues,” he says, “both by spurring commercial landlords to lease to aspiring new venues, as well as providing an economic incentive for existing spaces to create new stages for live music, which in turn greatly benefits all local music artists.”