Castro’s Lounge in the Beach will survive after agreement reached regarding liquor licence

Castro's Lounge is located at 2116 Queen St. E. in the Beach.

Castro’s Lounge in the Beach will survive.

Owner Stephen Reid announced on Tuesday, Jan. 21, on the popular Queen Street East establishment’s Facebook page that a resolution had been reached with Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

A Licence Appeal Tribunal Hearing was slated for Tuesday regarding the AGCO’s bid to revoke Castro’s liquor licence for breach of conditions.

However, a settlement agreement was reached that day between Castro’s and the AGCO, and the appeal hearing was not held.

“It is with a sense of relief and sadness that I can now report that our resolution with the AGCO has been finalized and Castro’s Lounge will survive,” Reid wrote in the post.

“It has, however, come at a terrible cost. Anthony has now resigned all of his positions as an officer and shareholder in the “parent company” that operates Castro’s. He is no longer involved in Castro’s Lounge.”

As part of the resolution, however, Castro’s liquor licence will suspended for a period of two weeks (14 days), Reid said in the post.

“We have also agreed to a 14-day suspension of our liquor licence,” wrote Reid in the post.

“The dates of the suspension have yet to be finalized but we will likely close around the first two weeks of February. Please be assured that Castro’s will continue to operate as it has. I have been Anthony’s business partner since we purchased the bar together in June 2011. I am wracked with grief that it has come to this but it was not unexpected. We have been dealing with the proposal to revoke the liquor license since May 2019. Together we will get through this and the Castro’s Lounge Community will remain strong, viable and united…Best to all, Stephen.”

In a statement sent to Beach Metro News on Jan. 22, the AGCO said the suspension would take place between Feb. 7 and 21 of this year.

“As per the terms of the agreement, the AGCO will not revoke the licence,” said the statement. “Instead, the licence holder has agreed to additional conditions being placed on the licence and the establishment will serve a 14-day liquor sales suspension from February 7 to 21, 2020. The AGCO will continue to monitor the establishment for compliance with the LLA (Liquor Licence Act) and its regulations.”

As Reid mentioned, the issue of Castro’s liquor licence and the AGCO has been going on since last year.

According to a post on the Facebook page of Castro’s Lounge late last week by now former owner Anthony Greene, a message he sent to an AGCO inspector last year had been part of the reason why the situation has developed to the point of this week’s hearing. The post was removed from Castro’s Facebook page earlier this week.

In a statement sent to Beach Metro News, the AGCO said it was seeking to pull the liquor licence because it “has reason to believe that the licence holder has contravened the Liquor Licence Act (LLA) and the Regulations, or a condition of the licence.”

Greene had been prohibited from entering Castro’s by the AGCO as a result of the earlier dispute.

However, it became known that Greene had been in the bar on two occasions in the past year, and that led to the AGCO seeking to pull the licence.

In his now deleted Facebook post, Greene had cited the importance of Castro’s Lounge to the East Toronto music and social scene.

“I for one, along with the team at Castro’s, want to work for the good of the neighbourhood, for the good of the City. Serve beer, respect the community, bring people together, enjoy music, give everyone who wants to have a shot get up and perform. I sincerely hope that we can work past my mistake, my poor judgment and poor choice of words, and keep Castro’s open,” Greene said in the post.

That post drew a huge response from community members talking about the importance of Castro’s community and that they would fight to help save it.

A petition started by Victoria Stone had gathered thousands of signature in support of Castro’s in advance of the tribunal hearing.

”We the undersigned humbly submit to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) of Ontario our support for Castro’s Lounge in the current dispute aimed at revoking Castro’s Liquor License,” said the petition. ”Castro’s Lounge has been in operation in the Beaches for over 20 years. It is a ‘community hub’ that supports live music and local musicians. It is a beloved gathering place for people from all walks of life in the Beaches.

“Castro’s Lounge is, and always has been, a professionally-run establishment that has been operated with honesty and integrity. It is an integral part of life for many people in the Beaches neighbourhood. It would be a travesty to see it closed.”

Many people reacting to Reid’s post on Tuesday expressed regret that Greene would no longer be involved with Castro’s.

“Anthony Greene is the real deal. I can only imagine the hassles he’s had to put up with just so that he can present live music,” wrote Marty Morin. “He never stopped the music. It’s not right to see him go this way.”

Sam Taylor wrote that Greene was “hands down one of the kindest and most effective people I have worked with in the Toronto scene in my 9 years here. He poured his heart into Castro’s and the whole community…Bless Castro’s and here’s hoping it can continue as a strong venue.”

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