Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Open Letter to Mayor Robertson & Vancouver City Council

Dear Mayor Robertson and Elected Vancouver City Councillors:

First of all I want to introduce myself as Paddy Treavor, a long-time Vancouver resident and one that takes his civic duty to vote in elections very seriously.

Democracy only works with participation and that participation, on both the voter and politician side of the equation, reaches beyond election campaigns and the act of voting. Once the votes are cast and the candidates chosen for public office, it is of paramount importance that those elected to office are held accountable by the citizens they represent and that the politicians take this responsibility seriously, and not consider themselves above the people who hold the power of returning the politicians to office or replacing them with other, more responsible and accountable candidates in the next election.

It is because of this concept of political accountability I am writing you all.

I recently sent an email entitled "Vancouver City's Lack of Support for Local Industry" outlining how supporting the new provincial liquor law allowing for on-site beer lounges at breweries could be a great way for the City of Vancouver to support local, small businesses, promote local tourism, provide more opportunities for local employment and attract businesses to locate in Vancouver in the future. The email was a follow-up on a blog post I wrote entitled "No Fun City Bureaucracy Stands in the Way of Beer Lounges", a story that highlights how current Vancouver City zoning by-laws and liquor licensing polices are prohibiting local breweries from taking advantage of this great opportunity. Even if you did not read my blog post, and I encourage you to do so, the story was picked up by The Province newspaper a few days later so you may be familiar with the problem.

Almost two weeks have passed and the only response I have received is one from the city clerk stating they had forwarded my email to Mr Mayor and City Councillors. This is not the first time I have received no response to emails sent to Vancouver City Hall regarding issues involving the rights of local craft beer consumers and the local craft beer industry, so I am beginning to think that Mayor Robertson's appearances at Vancouver Craft Beer Week, to tap the first cask, were more photo opportunities than a true desire to support the local craft beer industry and that Vancouver City Council does not take the craft beer industry and the consumers who support it, very seriously.

When I was president  (2011-2012) of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) BC - Vancouver Branch, a Vancouver-based consumer advocacy group which currently boasts a membership of close to 1000 members, either myself or a member of my executive sent several emails asking for City Council support on campaigns like Fess Up to Serving Sizes (FUSS), addressing the common practice of liquor licensees misrepresenting their draft beer serving sizes in your city and Bring Your Own Craft Beer (BYOCB), asking for your support to have beer included in changes to provincial liquor laws involving corkage which would have been great for craft beer consumers in your city and would help spur on the local hospitality and craft beer industries.

Silence. Not even the courtesy of an email saying, "not interested". That doesn't seem very accountable to me.

I understand you are all busy running our great city, but these issues have been important enough to illicit responses from other busy politicians such as Liberal Cabinet Minister Rich Coleman, and NDP Caucus Chair, Shane Simpson, to name but a few, as well as from Liquor Control and Licensing Branch General Manager, Karen Ayers. These issues I wrote you all about were also important enough to be brought up and discussed in the BC Legislature, but not important enough to get any response from yourselves even thought they are issues that impact the voters this city on a daily basis and which, with your support and attention, could be resolved here in Vancouver.

The only time I have received any response to emails sent to Vancouver municipal politicians was just prior to the last election when I sent out an email to all candidates asking them a specific set of questions regrading how they would support the local craft beer consumer and craft beer industry. During that pre-election period, when politicians are doing their best to connect with as many voters as possible in attempts to get their votes, I did receive email responses from several candidates, including current City Councillors:

  •  George Affleck, who stated he "would be happy to take a lead" on the subject of allowing for "smaller pubs spread around the city like they are in the UK," which supporting beer lounges would do quite nicely.  
  • Jerry Jang, who stated Vancouver City Council can, "encourage the establishment of the (craft beer) industry through zoning,", the same zoning that is prohibiting beer lounges at this time. He also stated, "neighbourhood pubs are important not only because they add to the character of a neighbourhood, but also prevents drinking and driving as one can walk home!". Hmmm, beer lounges are not neighbourhood pubs, as the legislation states they are "endorsements" on manufacturing licenses, but they sure would function in a very similar way.
  • Heather Deal, who stated she would "like to see more small pubs in neighborhoods throughout the city.Again, beer lounges could be a great way to have these small, licensed establishments dotted around the city. To Heather's credit, although she has ignored all emails sent post-election by myself or CAMRA when I was president,  has kept her pre-election promise to "work with" CAMRA, having just taken a meeting with current CAMRA Vancouver President, Adam Chatburn. Whether that meeting comes to anything is yet to be seen, but at least she responded.

I am a very active advocate, championing the rights of BC's craft beer consumers and the vibrant and growing craft beer industry here in our province. As I mentioned, I am a blogger, the author of the award-winning VanEast Beer Blog, the very blog you are reading now, a blog that reaches thousands of people each month, many of whom live in Vancouver and will be voting in the next election. I am not saying I can persuade these readers to vote one way or another, but I do think that those voters knowing you are ignoring these issues that they are so passionate about may cause them to rethink whether they want to re-elect politicians who so blatantly ignore their voices.

Yes, I am but one person, one vote, but there are thousands of others who think the same way as I do on these issues and these people are my readers.

And just to let you know that I was on to something when I wrote in my post that is Vancouver City does not embrace the idea of beer lounges ASAP, they will lose businesses to other municipalities,  the exodus has started. I already know of one person who has recently scrapped plans to open a small brewery in Vancouver, in favour of a neighbouring city, because of your restrictive zoning by-laws, stifling liquor licensing policies and unnecessarily complicated and onerous process of opening a brewery here in Vancouver City.

If you do not start paying attention to people like myself who are advocating on behalf of one of the most vibrant consumer markets and industry segments of this province, you are going to see many more breweries opening in neighbouring cities, paying their taxes and luring tourism and business away from Vancouver City. That would be a travesty as Vancouver, if politicians have enough vision, could become the Portland North, attracting millions of tourist dollars a year because of their great craft beer scene.

I can tell you, politicians at the provincial level are listening and meeting with people like myself and CAMRA Vancouver President Adam Chatburn and listening to what we have to say. I hope, for the sake of our great city, you all start to take some notice as well before it is too late for both the craft beer industry in this city and yourselves come the next election.


  1. Great letter.

    I hope to see a reply posted here from anyone in the City.

    (btw, it's lose, not loose)

  2. I will keep you posted Todd...and thanks for the editing! Corrected

  3. Wow, what an awesome letter. You have so much passion and vision. It brought tears to my eyes reading your blog.

  4. Thank you Kim...I hope Mayor Robertson and his City Council take it seriously. Craft beer consumer numbers are growing, we are getting organized and we will not be ignored any more

  5. I couldn't agree more. The city should encourage these small businesses, it might just make itself more fun in the process. Cheers!