Feature - Playing by the rules 

Under the spotlight, Whistler clubs express some of their frustrations

By Kara-Leah Grant

Ask a guest why they come to Whistler and the answer is invariably skiing, or snowboarding, or mountain bike riding. But there is another reason why people come to Whistler, and it’s the reason that makes some people choose to ski here rather than at another resort. People come to Whistler to party.

We have a great reputation as a party town and it is a reputation fuelled by our nightclub industry. There are not many towns in the world with a population of 10,000 that can boast six nightclubs (or seven if you include the Boot) featuring world class DJs and live acts on a regular basis. For those of us who live in town, there is no doubt we are spoiled rotten.

But this year has been hard for those who work in the nightclub industry. The changes in the liquor act, while initiated with the intention of streamlining the rules and regulations, have made things more difficult. Isolated violence in the village has left the impression the clubs are a violent place to be. Toss in the downturn in the American economy, which meant fewer Americans and less money in town, and during a time when the clubs are traditionally busy, you’ve got a difficult few months.

For years the nightclub industry had asked the government to address inconsistencies and outmoded laws in the convoluted liquor act. They were excited when it finally happened. But change doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. While some rules were changed for the better, some rules, like those governing identity cards people are required to carry, have become almost ridiculous. Under the changes, if a 24-year-old carrying a passport and no other piece of ID is "caught" in a club, the club can be written up.

Accompanying the changes in the Liquor Act has been an increase in enforcement. There is no doubt that enforcement of the Liquor Act was slack in Whistler for many years, but now the pendulum seems to have swung too far the other way.

Mike Hofbauer is the general manager of Garfinkel’s, Whistler’s largest nightclub. "It has been a very frustrating year because despite our efforts to be 100 per cent compliant with the Liquor Act, we’re still treated like we’re breaking the rules all the time," he says. "There is no acknowledgement of what the bars are doing right."

What the bars are doing right is adhering strictly to capacity, (the number of liquor seats allocated to each establishment), stringently checking IDs and ensuring nobody is over served. Unfortunately, this ‘by the book’ running of the clubs can leave a bad taste in the mouths of many international customers.

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