3 min

Not nearly enough

Booze liberalization still embryonic

A small step? Or a misstep? Time will tell. But city council’s overly cautious moves to change Vancouver’s archaic and iron-fisted approach to liquor regulations is disappointing so far.

Readers will recall that our community pointed to two key issues in last autumn’s civic election: community policing and radical liberalization of liquor regs. COPE promised big, yes big, changes in both.

So far, city council’s COPE majority appears to be flubbing both. Not ignoring, mind you. But being too cautious.

First, community policing: Chief Jamie Graham seems to be taking us all back to 1950s policing. Many community policing centres will be closed. Those that survive will lose their elected boards of directors-and, arguably, their ablility to inform the VDP of neighbourhood priorities.

Graham has already pulled cops out of the community policing centres and re-assigned them to his three-month experiment in a US-style anti-drug police state in the Downtown Eastside. Even the big horses are there. Not there are the safe-injection sites promised as part of the COPE election platform, but repeatedly held up by an apparently reluctant Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and by a federal government intent on turning the injection sites into an experiment without the accompanying cash. You’d think the police would wait until the safe-injection sites were in operation before kicking in the enforcement against dealers.

Perhaps that’s too logical for this chief. Even more disturbing is the virtual silence emanating from Cambie and 12th as Graham dismantles the embryonic and inadequate community policing measures that do exist and prioritizes the kind of drug clamp-down that voters rebuffed in the last municipal election.

Hello? Is anybody home at city hall? Speak up, will you?

At least things are moving forward, not backward, with liquor issues. Barely.

Tim Stevenson did move a successful motion extending Sunday openings to 2 am or 1 am, depending on the type of establishment. But then he caved in to staff reluctance by agreeing to measure the public response to it. In my opinion, he should have told staff, “Look, this was an election issue. We promised to cut plenty of red tape for the bars, pubs and restaurants. We won. Your jobs have changed. Our new priority is for you staff to figure out how to make it possible for bars to extend their hours, increase their capacities, give more options to consumers and reflect the needs of minority cultural communities, like the gay community. We no longer want staff to slow things down or use city hall’s authority to hold up applications. Get it done.”

Seems to me staff don’t think anything’s changed with the last election. But the gay and lesbian community has high expectations of Tim Stevenson and Ellen Woodsworth-our queer councillors-delivering rapid, not incremental but rapid, progress in slashing red tape.

Stevenson’s asked for a series of staff memos and reports exploring various aspects of loosening local liquor controls. Meanwhile, he wants bars to be able to apply for temporary permits to stay open to 4 am, and he wants the gay bars in particular to be open until 4 am for the Pride weekend. Staff said it was possible.

Already, Vince Marino of PumpJack Pub has applied for a permit to open until 4 am over Pride. And he’s requested an extension of operating hours until 1 am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays-something he should now get automatically after Stevenson’s motion passed.

We shall see how city staff treat the PumpJack applications. We’ll soon know just who is running city hall. And we may soon know if our community now gets the respect it deserves.



A handful of Vancouver gays and lesbians have dedicated much of their lives this past year to community policing issues. Now they need your thoughts. They’re putting together a response to the police chief’s plan for community policing, trying to find a way to preserve community input. If you’re in town on Easter Monday, Apr 21, please drop by Central Presbyterian Church, 1155 Thurlow St, just off Davie, at 1:30 pm. It’s an emergency community meeting.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.