Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Love-In at City Hall

The smile on Mayor Gregor Robertson's face and sigh of relief from Brassneck Brewery's Nigel Springthorpe Tuesday night said it all.

Vancouver City Council had just embraced the idea of on-site lounges in breweries with open arms.

As most of you reading this know, Vancouver City Council voted unanimously to amend zoning and development by-law to accommodate lounges as an accessory use to breweries and distilleries. 

In layman's terms, they voted to change zoning by-laws to allow us to drink beer in lounges located on-site at breweries.

This massive step forward for the craft beer culture in Vancouver came at us travelling at lightening speed with the motion put forward April 23rd, a mere 11 weeks ago, by NPA Councillor George Affleck to have, "(City) staff report back to Council on the required changes to the relevant regulations within the City of Vancouver that would permit micro-breweries, wineries and distilleries on industrial land to sample products produced on-site, thus being consistent with provincial liquor policy," which was debated and passed that night. Since that time city staff looked at what needed to be done, came up with recommendations, presented them to council who approved the recommendations and Tuesday the whole process came to and end with the public hearing.   

Much of the reason for this is that the City and brewery representatives have basically been on the same page since the motion was tabled. This fact was highlighted several times during the public hearing with Brassneck co-owner Conrad Gmoser thanking the mayor and his council for being so accomadating and with the Mayor Robertson and several councilors thanking the brewers for being so darn nice and easy to work with.

Both sides met twice in consultation meetings which by all accounts, went very smoothly and without much, if any, conflict. Even though I did not attend the meetings, I may have been the only source of aggravation, as I was told by a few who attended the first meeting that staff from the mayor's office asked the brewery contingent if any of them knew who Paddy Treavor was, probably as a result of my open letter to Mayor Robertson and City Council, which was described by Clr Affleck as "nasty", and my subsequent meeting with George Affleck who responded to my letter by contacting me.

It has been a pleasure to see all the Vancouver craft breweries band together and forget about competition for a few moments to work on getting this passed whether they were planning on having a lounge or not. 

It was great to see Vancouver City Council play nice with each other and work quickly to get this done.

And it was great to see the local craft beer supporters come out of the woodwork to support this motion  when possible opposition came into the picture this past weekend and myself, Barley Mowat and CAMRA Vancouver started rallying the troops. That cry for support resulted in 773 form letters, sent by supporters via Barley Mowat's blog, and 58 individual letters, sent in over a 48 hours, clogging up the city clerks in-box.

And as a result of everyone playing nice and getting along, almost everyone has basically gotten what they want in what I have described over and over as a win-win-win situation.

Clr Affleck, the only NPA councilor on City Council, received overwhelming support from the Vision Vancouver-heavy council and had his motion passed, which he joked, "hasn't happened very often".

Mayor Robertson, who was joking and laughing at the end of the meeting and his Vision council will be remembered as the gang that brought beer lounges to Vancouver.

The brewery owners and brewers, well, they are still pinching themselves to make sure this isn't still all a dream.

Consumers are giddy and just itching for these lounges to open.

The only group that really didn't get what they wanted were the "possible threat" I mentioned, Campaign for Culture, who although they support the idea of lounges in breweries wholeheartedly, did not support this motion as they felt it was too restrictive.  As a result of their opposition to some of the restrictions, they started an email campaign of their own which resulted in 70 form letters being registered in the "opposed" column.

But even they walked away from Tuesday's public hearing smiling as two of the three restrictions they want lifted, hours of operation and the amount of special events that can be held, are to be reviewed in a year's time and if things look good, could be made less restrictive. The only restriction CFC wanted lifted that council refused to look at was size of the lounges which will stay fixed at 80 sq metres.

Even I came out a winner, as Mayor Robertson thanked me for bringing this issue to City Council and did not throw one single brick or sick one single security guard on me during the evening.

But come to think of it, know he knows what I look like...

For those of you who have lots of time on your hands, I have added the links of the City's presentation to City Council, which outlines everything you need to know about this subject and the changes being made in a PowerPoint presentation. I have also linked the video broadcast of the whole public hearing where you can see exactly was said by all parties.

And on that note, I promise not to blog on this subject again until I actually have a beer in one of these highly anticipated lounges...


Video of meeting,005