World Cup fans get a head start on boozing?

DON PEAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

TORONTO - Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone is trying to bend Toronto bar hours like Beckham for the World Cup.

Pantalone wants city soccer fans cheering for their team during the tournament - set to kickoff in South Africa next month to be able to belly up to the bar an hour earlier than Ontario liquor laws normally allow.

The city councillor and mayoral candidate will ask his fellow councillors next week to approve asking the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to allow Toronto businesses to start serving booze at 10 a.m. for the month the World Cup lasts.

"Why not facilitate a good time?" Pantalone asked Thursday. "The beautiful game is something that brings humanity together."

Because Johannesburg is six hours ahead of Toronto, the time difference will have World Cup games airing at 7:30 and 10 a.m., and 1:30 p.m., Pantalone said.

"Residents will be patronizing local cafes and restaurants earlier than normal during this specific time period," Pantalone's motion to city council states.

The earlier hours would be a boost for the city's restaurant industry, hit hard by the economic downturn, he said.

This will give (small business) a nice little shot in the arm," Pantalone said.

The change in serving hours would be just for the tournament and not a permanent change, he said.

When asked if he thought an hour extra of liquor service would be a problem as far as drunkenness or soccer hooliganism, Pantalone laughed.

"I think the fans at Toronto FC show Torontonians can enjoy the game without causing trouble," he said.

The Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association is cheering for Pantalone to score on this motion.

Stephanie Jones, the association's Ontario vice-president, said they've always supported the idea of giving their members some flexibility in meeting customers needs for big sporting events.

"We would support it for operators who are interested," Jones said. "It encourages people to go out to their local neighbourhood restaurant rather than stay at home where they can drink anytime."

She said last summer - with the city strike, the bad weather and the poor economy - Toronto restaurants were hit hard.

"No question it's been a tough year but we are poised for recovery," Jones said.

Lisa Murray, spokesman for the AGCO, said under the Liquor Licence Act the City of Toronto has the power to extend bar hours for events of municipal, provincial, national or international significance."

Typically, the AGCO only has granted extensions for live events taking place in the province, not televised events, she said.

City council will deal with the motion either Tuesday or Wednesday.


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