Olympic party hours still not decided 

Councillors can’t come to agreement and refer the issue back to staff, again

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How late restaurants, bars and nightclubs will be able to serve alcohol during the Olympics is a question Whistler's council members still can't agree on.

Even after 45 minutes of discussion at Tuesday night's council meeting, the seven remained absolutely divided on the issue. The only thing they could agree on was to refer the issue back to municipal staff for another hard look at the options.

The debate is boiling down to the fact that Whistler's RCMP officers have clearly stated they don't have enough staff members to properly police the village if bars, clubs and restaurants stay open an extra hour during the Games.

The estimated cost to have enough officers on duty to keep the village safe between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. is also an issue.

During a closed door meeting last week, the RCMP showed council how much they believe it will cost Whistler to have staff on duty. And while council couldn't talk about the estimated budget publicly, they said it was "massive."

"I'll be damned if I go forward with that amendment tonight and have this thing be the thing that puts Whistler's 2010 Olympic budget over the top," said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who reversed his position from two weeks ago, when municipal staff first brought the issue of extending the Olympic liquor hours to council.

"I have been working on these budgets for these Games with staff for years and I have seen a budget that is constant and that has not changed."

Mayor Ken Melamed sided with Zeidler, saying there are some risks that are manageable, but going against the advice of the RCMP isn't one of them.

"There is no group in the resort that understands as clearly what goes on in this resort in the late night hours as the RCMP," he said. "(The Olympic spectators) will respect our approach to hosting these Games in a responsible way and our management of our resources and our budget."

On the other side of the debate firmly sat Councillor Chris Quinlan, who stressed he was speaking as a councillor and not from his role as president of the Restaurant Association of Whistler.

Quinlan said while the cost to police the village an extra hour during the Games is huge, it is still important that Whistler's restaurants and bars are able to serve food and alcohol to Olympic spectators, athletes and officials.

"Look at the scheduling of events, even Fire and Ice finishes at 11 p.m., and there are sliding centre events that go until 11 or 11:30 p.m.," said Quinlan.

"By the time you get those people off the hill, it will be 12 or 12:30 a.m., and just their demand for basic food and beverage services is going to extend until at least two o'clock.

"We are going to have our guests coming down, having a need for this, and I believe it will be an issue if we say, 'I'm sorry, you didn't get in until 12:30, you are going to have to have your alcohol removed from the table.'"

To navigate the "massive" estimated cost of policing the village for an extra hour during the Games, though, Quinlan proposed only extending restaurant liquor hours until 2 a.m. His amendment was voted down in a 3-4 vote, with only Councillors Ted Milner, Grant Lamont also in favour.

Three separate motions were then put on the table, but council couldn't find a majority to support any of them.

Melamed and Zeidler were the only council members to vote in support of staff's recommendation to extend restaurant closing hours to 1 a.m. And Councillor Tom Thomson and Ralph Forsyth both put forward motions that involved extending nightclub hours beyond 2 a.m. that were shot down by the rest of council.

After the meeting, Melamed said he is concerned council cannot come to an agreement on the liquor hours and that this is going back to municipal staff yet again.

"As a mayor, I am very respectful of the burden it has placed on staff," said the mayor.

Municipal staff already have a full agenda, and they do not have the time to keep reworking the RCMP's scheduling plans, he said.

Currently, most bars, pubs and lounges close at 1 a.m., and nightclubs shut down at 2 a.m. Restaurants have closing hours between midnight and 2 a.m.

Meanwhile restaurants in Vancouver will soon be able to serve liquor until 2 a.m. on weekends.

Two weeks ago, Vancouver city council voted to extend liquor law hours for restaurants from midnight to 1 a.m. on week days and from 1 to 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Mayor Gregor Robertson called the change long overdue for a big city like Vancouver, adding that not everyone works nine-to-five jobs anymore.

Burnaby and Richmond also allow their restaurants to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.

 

 

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