Movie theatre facing tight deadline 

Request to increase A-licensed seats in former AlpenRock space deferred

The proposed eight-screen movie theatre in Whistler Village Centre could still be open in time for Christmas, providing a rezoning application for the project is approved at Whistler council’s Aug. 6 meeting.

And in an effort to hasten that approval a request to increase the number of A-licensed seats in an adjacent nightclub has been deferred.

Council, with only five members present at Monday’s meeting, gave the rezoning of the former AlpenRock space third reading, but Mayor Hugh O’Reilly cautioned that it was "not a slam dunk" for the project.

O’Reilly and Councillors Ted Milner and Kristi Wells voted in favour of the proposed rezoning, while Councillors Stephanie Sloan and Ken Melamed opposed it. O’Reilly said while he supported the motion he would like to hear from Councillors Dave Kirk and Nick Davies on the project at fourth reading.

Opposition primarily focussed on another aspect of the proposal, which would allow a nightclub and restaurant in the underground space formerly occupied by AlpenRock. Councillors would like the existing bowling alleys maintained and are leery about increasing the number of licensed seats in the village.

Jack Evrensel, owner of Araxi’s Restaurant in Whistler, has proposed that the two existing A licenses for the area, a total of 263 seats, be combined for the proposed nightclub. A B licence for 267 seats also exists for the space. Evrensel and Larco Investments Ltd., which owns the building, have proposed that the A licensed seats for the nightclub be increased to 375, while the B licensed seats in the restaurant be reduced to approximately 100.

At Monday’s meeting council included a covenant with the rezoning which would give the municipality a veto on any increase in liquor licence seats above 263.

However Jonathan Lazar, a representative of Larco, said Wednesday the company has decided to defer its request to rearrange the licensed seats.

"We’re concerned the seat increase may jeopardize the Christmas opening of the theatre," Lazar said, "so we’ve decided to defer the request."

Lazar said Evrensel is working on a concept for a nightclub – he described it as a lounge with a dance floor – that is different from anything existing in Whistler and would be aimed at an older demographic. He said Evrensel wants the opportunity to properly present his ideas to council but he needs time to fully develop the concept, and so is now focussing on opening the club in November of 2003.

Lazar said, "We’re hopeful," the project will receive fourth reading on Aug. 6. "We’re not assuming anything at this point. There are two other councillors to vote. But we think it would be great for Whistler."

Approval on Aug. 6 would just barely allow the theatre to open in time for Christmas.

"Word on the street we hear about the theatre is very positive," he added.

Lazar said Larco has explored other ideas for indoor recreation, as some councillors and speakers at a July 2 public hearing requested. The ceiling height appears to be too low for an indoor skatepark, as one person suggested.

Other indoor recreation businesses which have failed in Whistler, including AlpenRock, Mountain World and video arcades, suggest that there isn’t the demand that some people think for indoor recreation, Lazar added.

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