Sam Grosso is is one of Toronto’s most respected music venue owners; he’s known not only for Parkdale’s popular Cadillac Lounge but also as one of the men that invested in the floundering El Mocambo Tavern in an attempt to save the landmark venue. Perhaps that’s why both he and the city’s music community are pretty ticked off at the fact that he recently received a near-$500 ticket for the unauthorized posting of show flyers on city property – despite having nothing to do with their being put up at all.
The flyers in question were advertising Toronto band Big Tobacco and the Pickers’ May 14 CD release show at the Cadillac Lounge. Presumably posted by the industrious band and/or agents acting on their behalf, the flyers were discovered by an equally industrious bylaw officer on nearby utility poles – a prohibited act unless proper authorization from the city has been acquired. Obviously, the actual postering team was long gone, so Johnny Law decided to do the next best thing – he went to Grosso and informed him that he would be stuck with the $490 ticket since the show was to be held at his venue.
Of course, the most ridiculous part of this story is the officer’s logic. If the posters were advertising, say, a Cadillac Lounge birthday bash then it could be argued that those posting flyers were acting on the club’s behalf and Grosso is ultimately responsible. This officer’s logic, however, is akin to finding a rock thrown through a window with “Rock Thrower’s Meeting May 14, Queen & Spadina McDonald’s” scrawled on it and charging the fast food restaurant with the broken window (not exactly, but you know what I mean).
But Grosso has also pointed out the deeper problem here: in a city that consistently claims to aspire towards being a musical mecca, it’s counter-productive to have a bylaw that pretty much limits bands and venues to doing hard copy promotion at the venue itself alone. Bands that actually embrace the grind of flyering instead of solely relying on Facebook are few and far between and should be rewarded, not penalized. Oh wait, I forgot – they don’t get penalized, the places that provide a stage for the music do. An exasperated Grosso took to Facebook, suggesting that Torontonians write the mayor requesting that the by-law be changed. While the bylaw may make sense when applied to giant festivals with the power to blanket the city with obnoxiously large and distracting posters, allowing smaller venues and independent bands to reasonably promote themselves seems to be a no-brainer. Mayor John Tory did spend a lot of time talking about renewing our music scene and dropped some taxpayer dollars heading a trade mission to SXSW in March. Time to put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Mayor.