liquor review 

Capone’s will be able to keep their strippers, at least for now. Just four days after Whistler councillors introduced a bylaw aimed specifically at establishments with C liquor licences, the province finally released its proposed changes to liquor regulations. And as expected, one of the recommendations is to do away with the present 10-licence system (A to J) and replace it with a two-licence system. As a result, the municipality has cancelled the March 29 public information meeting on the bylaw which would ban exotic dancing at C-licensed establishments. "In light of the province’s announcement, we think it prudent to allow them to go through their process before we initiate any actions specific to Whistler concerns," Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said Tuesday. "To me this is a much bigger issue (than exotic dancing)," O’Reilly said. "We were reacting fairly quickly to something, and that’s not always best." O’Reilly was away on holidays when council gave first three readings to the bylaw prohibiting exotic dancing on March 22. The bylaw was brought forward after Capone’s nightclub began bringing exotic dancers in several nights a week and complaints were received by the chamber of commerce, Whistler Resort Association and some councillors. Many had questioned how council could enact a bylaw that prohibited exotic dancers at establishments with C licences while permitting them at establishments with other licences. That question became moot when the province introduced its proposed changes to liquor regulations. Many of the proposed changes were outline previously in Pique Newsmagazine, including eliminating rules on the size of television sets in restaurants, allowing restaurants to serve alcohol without food at a limited number of seats, permitting credit card sales at government liquor stores and reducing the types of licences to two: primarily food and primarily liquor. Liquor review consultant Jo Surich came up with the recommendations after consulting with organizations in the food and beverage industry. There is supposed to be opportunities for municipalities to provide input before the regulations are enacted. What has operators of the local cold beer and wine stores upset are proposals to allow government liquor stores in tourist areas to open on Sundays. "I feel like a bit of a lab rat, with Whistler being one of the few places that will have Sunday liquor store openings," said Ben Horne, owner of The Boot Beer and Wine Store in the Shoestring Lodge. "We’re going to see a hit in our revenue and our profit. The cold beer and wine store provides a subsidy for the (Boot) pub and (Gaitors) restaurant. If we take a hit it’s going to affect the pub and the restaurant." Horne said he does 25 per cent of his beer and wine store revenue on Sundays. If he loses 10 per cent of that he may have to close the restaurant, which provides 25 jobs. Ron Hosner, owner of Hoz’s Beer and Wine Store, Hoz’s Creekside Grillroom and Hoz’s Pub, had similar feelings. "If they’re going to have Sunday openings they should do it everywhere, they shouldn’t pick and choose," Hosner said. Both Hosner and Horne suggested if the province is going to deregulate liquor it should go all the way. "If they’re going to open it up, open it up all the way," Hosner said. "I’d like to see children allowed in pubs, with adults. I’d like the same opportunity to serve families in the pub as restaurants now have." Horne said the review process should lead to complete deregulation, including getting the province out of its monopoly position as distributor of alcohol. "These guys are a law unto themselves, they do whatever they like," Horne said. "The government is not our partner," Hosner said. "They have a real vested interest in running their own business." Hosner is particularly frustrated because as a small, independent operator he had little opportunity for input into the regulations. The hotel, restaurant and neighbourhood pub associations were the ones whose voices were heard. "I hope the muni takes a real close look at this," Hosner said. "If they think there’s a problem now, they haven’t seen nothing yet. The profit just isn’t here, because of the competition. "The peelers, that’s just the start of it, that’s just a guy trying to survive."

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