Allura vows to continue operations despite losing business licence 

AlluraDirect.com may have lost its Whistler business licence but it’s business as usual, according to president Suzanne Chappel.

Chappel charged this week the municipality acted without legal grounds in suspending the company’s business licence and that demands for the company to open its books were in violation of privacy laws. And for those reasons the company won’t be complying with a municipal ruling.

"It’s just basically wrong, and the way they did it was wrong," Chappel said in reference to a June 17 show cause hearing where the municipality suspended Allura’s Whistler business licence for three months.

Allura, a Web-based lodging and vacation services company, was determined by Whistler council to be facilitating the rental of residentially zoned properties on a nightly basis. Neither Chappel nor any other representative of Allura appeared at the hearing.

Chappel said Allura has sought legal advice and may challenge the municipal decision in court. She said the ruling violates property owners’ right to advertise their properties, a position Councillor Nick Davies also took in casting the lone vote against the action.

Allura will issue a formal response to the municipal ruling but in the meantime the Vancouver-based company intends to continue to operate.

"We’re doing this on principle. If we caved on this where would it end?" Chappel said.

"Our message (to the municipality) is we have rights and you are out of line."

Chappel said Allura would like its licence back but it doesn’t need it to operate.

She said it was important to point out why the company is not backing down, that it doesn’t believe it did anything wrong and why it did not attend the hearing.

Allura wasn’t at the hearing because the company was moving its Web site server on June 17, a process that had been planned for several months and had to be done in order to prepare for next winter. Chappel claimed the municipality only gave her six business days notice of the hearing.

She also said Allura is standing firm in its defiance of the municipal ruling on behalf of the many local people who are employed through Allura, including cleaning companies, service people and property owners.

"We take our role in the community very seriously," Chappel said. "We’re part of a whole network of local entrepreneurs, and we’re not prepared to drop the ball on them."

She said Allura only has five properties of the approximately 400 listed on its Web site that are not zoned for tourist accommodation – the company had about 20 "illegal" properties in February when the municipality began investigating – but it will not abandon those properties.

"They represent no economic impact to our company, but to de-list them would violate those owners’ rights," she said. "They have the right to advertise.

"To de-list those five would set a precedent for council to bully us. We’re not going to let them do that."

She said the municipal ruling has damaged the company’s reputation.

Chappel also added that as of June 21 the company hadn’t received official notice of its licence suspension from the municipality.

What the municipality should be doing, according to Chappel, is addressing the issue of tourist accommodation zoning with property owners. For many of them, offering their property for rent is the only way they can afford to live in Whistler.

"Those owners have never had the opportunity to get TA zoning and pay all the fees and taxes. They would if they could," she said.

"All I see is locals who can’t afford to live in their homes that are now leaving town."

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