Buddies in Bad Times, city hall at odds over construction

Adam Wynne, of the Church Wellesley Village BIA, says it's concerning that the city has zeroed in on the theatre, but he's hopeful the issues can be resolved. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)
Adam Wynne, of the Church Wellesley Village BIA, says it's concerning that the city has zeroed in on the theatre, but he's hopeful the issues can be resolved. (Mike Smee/CBC - image credit)

With a month to go before the kickoff of Pride Month, Toronto's premier queer theatre space is facing a city order that limits access to its main stage area.

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is in the midst of re-examining structural work in that part of its century-old building near Yonge and Alexander streets — work it had done without a permit in 1994, according to city officials.

But theatre organizers say the show will go on, despite a city order that they restrict access to some parts of the building until they're granted a permit.

"We're going ahead with our full Pride program, I can tell you that," Buddies producer Aidan Morishita-Miki told CBC Toronto in a statement.

He did not respond to questions from CBC Toronto about why the organization did construction without first getting a permit.

Buddies in Bad Times staff, city building officials and local councillor, Chris Moise, wouldn't speak on camera about the building's problems.

But according to documents available on the city's website, the issues appear to have started last August, when a city inspector visited the building and noticed "the main hall floor/pit has been enclosed with a new floor system supported by wood floor joists and steel columns ... and was built without the benefit of a building permit."

The city then ordered the theatre to get a building permit or "remove all unauthorized construction."

In a follow-up letter to the theatre in February, the city noted a permit had still not been issued.

"While the Order is outstanding, you should not allow any parts of the building that are relevant to the Order to be used or occupied," the letter says.

Permit pending

However, it's not clear what, if any penalties, the theatre could face if it opens the main stage. City staff have not yet responded to questions from CBC Toronto.

In a statement last week, the city said the theatre has applied for a building permit, which is currently being processed. There's no word on when it could be issued.

But Moise, whose ward includes Buddies, said in an email he's confident the theatre will not have to close.

Coun. Chris Moise, whose Toronto Centre ward includes Buddies in Bad Times, says he's confident there's no risk of the building closing. (CBC)

"We have reached out to City staff and Buddies in Bad Times representatives to understand the situation at hand," Moise said.

"From these discussions, we understand that there is work by Buddies to obtain a building permit to address concerns that were flagged by Toronto Building. This work is underway, but in speaking with Buddies there is currently no imminent risk of the theatre closing."

Adam Wynne, director of the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area, told CBC Toronto he also wants to see the theatre's construction woes solved as soon as possible.

He said the neighbourhood is already seeing too many of its cultural spaces lost to redevelopment.

"It's extremely concerning to understand that they're going through some difficulties with Toronto Building right now, but we hope that all parties can come to the table and work together," he said.

"I'm hoping that is already happening behind the scenes"

Morishita-Miki confirmed that's happening.

"We're currently working with our architect, engineers, and City officials to come to a solution that supports compliance and public safety, ensuring this building is available as an essential community resource for decades to come," he said in his statement.