You’d think you could get free space at taxpayer-funded locations like libraries or community centres. Unfortunately, the nice ones often charge user fees. In Toronto, nonprofit and charitable groups can get free space if sponsored by a city councillor.
If your group doesn’t qualify, you can meet at a coffee shop but you’re not guaranteed seating. Some locations are large or have a separate room. Just don’t count on getting a whiteboard, privacy or silence.
You might get space in a restaurant or bar if your group makes minimum purchases. I was once invited to debate in a semi-private restaurant room on a slow evening. The attendance was great (50+) but there was a party at tables nearby and we didn’t have microphones. Good for the restaurant. Not so good for us.
free space at an ING DIRECT Cafe (might change now that Scotiabank bought them).
“The Thompson Block as well as the ING DIRECT Café space are available at no charge to community groups for public meetings and events every day of the week.”What if you’re not a community group? What if you want to hold regular meetings?
Nontraditional IdeasCan you meet in the evening? There’s lots of space in cafeterias and food courts outside of lunch time. I wouldn’t pick the mall food court but a nonprofit like a university, college or hospital may work. If they’re large, they are likely relatively quiet.
Maybe you can commandeer a study room or lecture hall at a university or college. Again, evenings are best. Unless they check ID or have overzealous security, this might work. Advertising the location may be a problem. The gathering group could attract questions.
If you don’t want to be a trespasser, the safer option is to pay for reserved space. You don’t need to ask for permission. You’ve got a guaranteed spot.
Toronto Public Library rents rooms starting at
- $20.40/hour for nonprofit groups
- $122.40/hour for commercial use
- $8/hour for internal groups including audio-visual equipment (seats 80)
- $26/hour for external groups plus audio visual equipment (seats 25)
ExampleI’ve been looking for a proper spot for a campus for Krypton Community College (see a genuine innovation in free lifelong education). Here “proper” means a room with tables, a whiteboard and a door.
Overall, the University of Toronto looks like the best place after work. The classrooms are affordable (under $10 a week based on 10 attendees). There’s subway access (north/south and west/east lines). Parking is plentiful and relatively cheap. The environment feels right. There’s lots of space outside the room. Perfect.
Picking the right venue helps attract the right people. Maybe they're the ones willing to pay for the room?