Horseshoe Tavern Could Leave Ontario over Skyrocketing Insurance Rates

Toronto venue owners say quotes are "300 or 400 percent" higher than in pre-pandemic times

Photo via the Horseshoe Tavern's Facebook

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Jun 30, 2021

Toronto music venue operators are sounding the alarm over unaffordable liability insurance — a situation that has led the owner of the city's iconic Horseshoe Tavern to even consider moving the establishment out of Ontario entirely.

Speaking with CBC, Horseshoe owner Jeff Cohen explained that the inability to secure insurance at an affordable rate has led him to consider leaving the venue's longtime home at Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue in Toronto.

"If I have no liability insurance by the new year, I'll consider moving to another province," he said.

Shaun Bowring, owner of the Garrison, added, "Pre-pandemic, insurance rates for my venue had increased about 400 per cent over 10 years. The quotes received during the pandemic are 300 or 400 per cent more than pre-COVID."

Last September, Stephen Reid, the owner of Toronto's Dakota Tavern, spoke to how insurance-related issues threatened the venue's future in a post-pandemic world. Speaking with BlogTO, he said "insurers were backing off of the restaurant and bar industry, particularly with live music venues" due to COVID-related concerns.

CBC notes that the City of Toronto aims to facilitate talks between the insurance industry and the Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) in hopes of creating an affordable insurance plan tailored to live music venues.

"What we really want is simply for for an insurance company to provide an insurance program that is specific to those music venues — that doesn't lump it in with other high-risk entertainment-based businesses and just provide a solution that's more specific to the sector, " Spencer Sutherland, a former venue owner and current member of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC), told the broadcaster.

Sutherland added that insurance companies have provided no reason for the rate hikes, despite insisting that venues continue to make payments while being shuttered to audiences.

"The timing is just too much for me to really wrap my head around," CLMA CEO Erin Benjamin added. "All of a sudden COVID strikes, and suddenly there's no one who will write [insurance policies] for the live music venues in the country, and not just venues, in some cases festivals as well."

The Insurance Bureau of Canada told CBC Toronto that while it is not directly involved in the talks, it does "recognize this is a challenging time for businesses who are operating in an environment that no one would have predicted a year ago."

In July, the Horseshoe Tavern will present a weekend drive-in and livestream festival with Jim Cuddy Band, Stars, the Sadies, Skydiggers and more.

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