‘IT’S OR­GA­NIZED CRIME, FOLKS’ City tar­gets thin­lyveiled sex spas

24 Hours Toronto - - NEWS - ANTONELLA ARTUSO

Toronto coun­cil is ask­ing the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to give it stronger li­cens­ing pow­ers to deal with rub and tugs and other shady busi­nesses.

Sev­eral coun­cil­lors told a city coun­cil meet­ing on Wed­nes­day con­stituents reg­u­larly com­plain about es­tab­lish­ments that pro­fess to be holis­tic cen­tres or other op­er­a­tions for the pur­pose of ob­tain­ing a busi­ness li­cence, but then of­fer sex­ual ser­vices.

The ex­ist­ing by­law en­force­ment regime is over­worked; in­spec­tors lack au­thor­ity to en­ter some busi­nesses like room­ing houses; and the courts and en­force­ment process move slowly, coun­cil heard.

Coun­cil­lor Gior­gio Mam­moliti said when zon­ing re­quire­ments are met, the city is obliged to hand out busi­ness li­cences and can only slap a mora­to­rium on a few en­ter­prises like strip clubs and taxis. The prov­ince doesn’t even let the city put con­di­tions on liquor li­cences, he said.

Mam­moliti pro­posed that Toronto ask the pro­vin­cial govern­ment for the au­thor­ity to re­strict the is­suance of busi­ness li­cences, giv­ing the city a means to strike at the il­le­gal sex trade.

A key tar­get would be holis­tic spas that are be­lieved to be a front for pros­ti­tu­tion.

“It’s or­ga­nized crime, folks,” Mam­moliti said of the rub and tugs.

The city does have the power to shut down rogue op­er­a­tors but the re­sources of the city’s mu­nic­i­pal li­cens­ing de­part­ment have been drained by the Uber-taxi spat, Coun­cil­lor James Paster­nak said.

Coun­cil­lor Frances Nun­zi­ata said the city can pass all kinds of by­laws, but it won’t make a dif­fer­ence.

“If we can’t en­force it be­cause we don’t have the tools to en­force it, we’re wast­ing our time,” she said.

Nun­zi­ata said sev­eral prob­lem busi­nesses in her west-end ward con­tinue to op­er­ate while charges lan­guish for four or five years in the courts.

Coun­cil also con­sid­ered the is­sue of li­censed restau­rants that ei­ther evolve into dance clubs at night, or are re­ally in the busi­ness of be­ing a night­club.

Coun­cil­lor Kristyn Wong-tam said a new night econ­omy is emerg­ing in the en­ter­tain­ment sec­tor of Toronto, adding the city is “be­com­ing a bit of a 24-hour city.”

While it’s im­por­tant to en­sure busi­nesses aren’t im­pact­ing the qual­ity of life in res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hoods, the city also wants to en­cour­age in­no­va­tion and the arts, she said.

Gior­gio Mam­moliti

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