3 min

Cut booze tape-now

Council must over-rule staff approach

Credit: Xtra West files

Did Vancouver city staff sleep through the recent municipal election, where Vancouver’s No-Fun City status was denounced regularly from both the stage and the floor of all-candidates meetings? Or did they naively believe that because loosening up liquor regs was a pillar of the vcaTEAM party, which came third, that the threat to their power was vanquished?

Wrong. The winning COPE ticket also made commitments to get red tape out of the way of Vancouver’s potential as a tourism destination and fun home for its residents. In particular, COPE made some pretty clear promises to the gay and lesbian community.

It’s cash-in time for gays and lesbians. Mayor Larry Campbell and councillors Anne Roberts and Tim Stevenson made a start on it last Thursday when they raked staff over the coals for the way temporary liquor permits are abused as a form of tight control over law-abiding private businesses. Staff had made a grab for power at a commitee meeting.

COPE councillors can smell a rat. But they’re not sure yet what to do about it. They want input. Okay, here’s my input:

• Your election was a landslide; you have a mandate for change. Do not study this issue any longer. Instead, live up to your promises to overhaul policies and the way staff applies them.

• Pass a motion to allow all bars to stay open until 2 am Sundays effective May 1. Give staff this specific date so that they realize there’s been a profound change in thinking at city hall; don’t ask for staff reports examining the feasibility of doing this, or the other items below. Do not pass a motion allowing bars to stay open until 2 am and asking staff to implement it as soon as possible. They will drag their feet and we need a whole series of changes before tourism season descends on us.

• Pass a motion increasing the liquor capacity at all venues to equal that of the fire capacity effective Jun 1. Also, mandate that both fire and liquor capacities are to automatically increase whenever additional exits are added to a bar so that patrons can quickly leave in the event of a fire. Once this is passed, fire regulations should be strictly enforced for safety reasons.

• Pass a motion making all temporary bar licences, of the kind at PumpJack Pub, into permanent licences immediately at midnight on the day of the next council meeting. Make it a staff policy that temporary licences may be given out for six months only in the case of responsible management, with a maximum of one additional six-month renewal if a further probation is absolutely required. At that time, a licence will become permanent unless the bar has been convicted of serious legal offences.

• Pass a motion allowing bars to extend their alcohol serving until 4 am on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis. The gay community has already reached consensus that we want to have them on Davie Street and at the Odyssey. Make Davie Village and the Odyssey a two-year pilot project for a 4 am closing, effective Jul 1. It must be done before Pride weekend!

• Order city staff to stop their practice of pressuring bars to give up their legal rights to offer strippers-and reverse any existing agreements.

• Laterally transfer Guy Gusdal and Paul Teichroeb to other city positions where they are not regulating alcohol, sex or anything that can be seen as a social evil. Bookseller Jim Deva likes to joke that if these guys were put in charge of issuing dog licenses, in a decade there’d only be three dogs in Vancouver and they’d each have a temporary licence.

The sad reality is that this red tape-this city overregulation-is hurting gay businesses which depend on tourism revenues. Vancouver has a terrible international reputation among gays as a pretty but deeply boring city. We must turn this around and turn it around this year, seeing as city staff have fired the first volley challenging council.

COPE council should make it clear to staff that city hall’s had a revolution in its thinking on alcohol regulation. The NPA wished to put up as many barriers as possible to the growth of our tourism industry. COPE has a chance to make Vancouver a sophisticated, fun city that brings in people from all over. Staff’s goal should be changed to one of encouraging a diversity of options for consumers and respecting the unique needs of minority communities, like the gay community.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.