Nightclub owners balk at late night Olympic liquor licenses 

Council grants 1 a.m. licenses for nation houses, Olympic venues during Games


Two key players in Whistler's nightclub scene are concerned about special late night Olympic liquor licenses competing with their businesses.

The temporary licenses, 10 in total, allow official Olympic venues, nation houses, Whistler Canada Olympic House (the library) and the Whistler Media House (MY Millennium Place) to serve alcohol, in most cases until 1 a.m.

Longhorn president Joey Gibbons explained that while he wants this to be a successful Olympic experience, he's concerned about this last minute turn of events having direct competition on his business, with the threat of possibly losing staff to one of the temporary establishments.

"Of course we want to support the Games and have them be the most successful they can be," he said after Tuesday's council decision.

But allowing thousands of temporary liquor seats for the Games is direct competition to him, and flies in the face of what he was told over the years.

Ironic, too, that his dad, Dick Gibbons, was one of the major donors to Millennium Place, supporting arts and culture in Whistler. Never did he imagine, said Gibbons, that it would have hundreds of liquor seats competing with him one day.

"It's just not right," he said.

Gibbons expressed his concerns in a letter to council that was considered Tuesday night.

"We expected that no unlicensed venues will become licensed late night during the Games," he wrote.

"We in the nightclub sector believe that not only will this be detrimental to our businesses, it will become tough to control and become a real negative for our community that we have helped build over the past 30 years!"

Mike Hofbauer, general manager of Garfinkel's, added in a separate letter to council: "Allowing this to happen would contravene the spirit of supporting local business that was clearly communicated to myself and our sector, and damage the operational plans of our business which we based around the recommendations of VANOC (the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games) and the RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler)."

Both asked council to limit the liquor license extensions to 11 p.m. rather than the proposed 1 a.m.

Gibbons also asked that the Whistler Sliding Centre license be pushed back to 9 p.m. to allow people to funnel back down to the village from Blackcomb Mountain in the early evenings.

"There is no doubt the creation of 'new nightclubs/pub/theatres' will pull great amounts of business out of the existing infrastructure for the nightclub, pub and restaurant sectors," wrote Hofbauer.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler highlighted the underlying sense of betrayal conveyed in the letters; that these nightclub owners didn't sell out to corporate sponsors in order to preserve the Whistler Village character, and yet now they see temporary venues playing late night hosts to Olympic guests.

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