City swiping unlicensed A-frame signs without warning

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Allowable A-Frame locations

Image: Municipal Licensing & Standards

Allowable Locations: This diagram shows where A-frame signs may be located, according to a new City bylaw.

Today’s Toronto Star reports that the City has begun swiping A-frame signs without warning from businesses who have not received a $200 license sticker. The businesses are charged a $100 retrieval fee to get their property back, plus a $15-a-day storage fee. A supervisor at the City’s Municipal and Licensing Standards department says it has swiped hundreds of unlicensed signs as part of Mayor David Miller’s spring clean-up.

Paul Trotter, who runs Reba’s Café in the Junction, says he paid the licensing fee, but received no sticker: "They told me I was supposed to have a sticker on my sign (to show it was legal). But when I applied for it last year and paid $200 for it, I didn’t receive a sticker and I wasn’t notified of a sticker." Mr. Trotter’s sign was swiped last Wednesday, with no explanation.

According to a new bylaw, A-frame licenses must be obtained in person at the City’s Municipal Licensing and Standards department in East York. Applications must include a copy of the business name registration, a site plan or survey, a photograph showing the location of the sign, written authorization from the property owner, a photo of the sign design, the original copy of the signed and stamped Insurance Commercial General Liability form, the business license number where required, written permission for the sign from the BIA, plus a cheque for $205.40 + GST. There are a few other requirements for corporations and for businesses with liquor licenses. Not suprisingly, Mr. Trotter’s application was cancelled due to insufficient documentation, as he learned while investigating the seizure of his sign.

The Roncesvalles Village BIA has never received any complaints about A-frame signs. Some might argue that such signs create a certain vitality, announcing when a street is "open for business." On the other hand, others may fear such signs impede the sidewalk, or look ugly. And while certain main streets (eg: Bloor/Yorkville) may prefer to keep such signs off the sidewalk, others may quite like having them. The BIA did not provide the City with any opinion on the wisdom of this bylaw or its enforcement policy, mainly because it was never asked.

Do you have an opinion about A-frame signs or this bylaw? Do the signs clutter the sidewalk, or are they part of a lively downtown street? Are the City regulations too restrictive, or too permissive? Please email the BIA at, or leave a comment.


UPDATE (May 20): The Toronto Star published a follow-up story over the weekend. City staffers measured Reba’s Café frontage and decided that, at 16 feet eight inches, the restaurant was 40 inches too narrow to allow a sign. “It seems like they’re splitting hairs,” said café owner Paul Trotter. “I find it discriminatory. We attempted to live by the rules and because of a technicality we were denied.” As a result of this decision, even if Trotter paid the $100-plus in fees and fines to get his sign back, he would still not be allowed to use it. Councillor Bill Saundercook criticized how City staff handled the case, and says he will take it up with community council if asked.

4 Comments on “City swiping unlicensed A-frame signs without warning”

  1. I think I counted 11 documents that the business owner must submit. I’m surprised that they missed out on permission letters from their neighbours, or copies of keys for the locks that attach the signs to the buildings, or medical forms. Maybe if the business owners got the stickers, the placement must be exact or if off a millimetre the sign would still be removed.

    Bureaucrats! Doing all they can to keep their jobs without helping the public.

  2. As a small business owner I am completely frustrated with the city of Toronto’s ongoing harrasement.I am a business owner since many years and have not asked for any assistance from the city. I run my business from the concourse level of the office building and if I am not allowed to place my A- frame sign on the street level (PRIVATE PROPERTY) I am as good as SHUT.This are the favours city of toronto does to the hard working, TAX paying citizens

  3. I personally feel that the city of toronto is getting greedy and hungry for a fee of 200.00 they want to rob poor merchants.

    The signs bring business and boost the economy.It is the small business that need signs and they are now being pinalized.Bringing stupid by laws like this is going to hurt the business owners.


  4. David miller shame on you. You are just out there on a rampage to hurt business owners who depend on day to day trying to make a living.This was a biggest mistake voting for you.Yo should be ashamed of yourself making merchants suffer.

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