editorial 

In the next 12 months the number of licensed seats in Whistler will likely increase from the current 29,000 to perhaps 40,000. But not from any building boom, although there will be new licensed seats in the Westin. The increase will come as a result of the recommendations for new liquor regulations, accepted by the provincial government last week. Among consultant Jo Surich’s recommendations was that the number of licensed seats in an establishment be brought in line with the building’s capacity, or increased by 50 per cent, whichever is the lesser total. That is one of the recommendations to be brought in during the first 12 months of the three-year phase-in for all of Surich’s recommendations. Whether that will mean Whistler really has 40,000 licensed seats a year from now is difficult to know. Municipal staff have only said the impact will be significant. But will it have any practical impact? Municipal staff, RCMP and people in the industry readily acknowledge that most establishments currently go beyond their licensed capacities when they get busy. RCMP don’t do head counts to determine whether a club or bar is over capacity, they see how easy it is to walk through the building. This is why Surich recommended licensed capacities be increased: to mesh with reality. Another reality is that Whistler is currently over-licensed. Of the current 29,000 licensed seats, many are in conference facilities, and therefore not in use daily. Another large chunk of seats are in restaurants. That brings the 29,000 total down substantially, but most people in the bar and club business will tell you Whistler has too many pub, club and bar seats, and that’s before the 500-plus seat AlpenRock House opens next month. So if there are price wars and businesses go under in the next year the changes to liquor regulations which increase Whistler’s total number of licensed seats won’t necessarily be to blame; over licensing is a problem Whistler has created on its own. o o o It must be bitter irony for Mountain World’s Glen Fawcett that Surich’s recommendations, which include simplifying the number and types of liquor licenses, were accepted the same week his business was forced to close its doors. Fawcett has said his financial problems stemmed from B.C.’s restrictive liquor licensing system which divided Mountain World into zones. If patrons wanted to have a drink they had to do it within a specific area, with lines on the floor to delineate that area. If they wanted to move about the entertainment centre they couldn’t do it with drinks in their hands. Fawcett had sought an A licence, which would have allowed alcohol throughout Mountain World. Under Surich’s recommendations the licensing system will be simplified from the current 10 types of licences to two. Mountain World would likely have eventually been issued a licence which would have given Fawcett the flexibility he sought. Whether it would have saved Mountain World is something we’ll never know.

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