Sunday, July 7, 2013

Opposition is Mounting Against Beer Lounge Recommendations - Public Hearing Tuesday, July 9

Ever since NPA Councillor George Affleck set in motion the chain of events that has Vancouver on the verge of allowing on-site lounges in breweries, distilleries and wineries, there has been overwhelming support for the idea.

Tuesday night the final step in the process takes place with a Public Hearing, held at 6 PM in the City Council Chamber, where submitted letters and emails will be reviewed and those who feel the need to voice their thoughts directly to City Council will have their opportunity to speak.

Despite the support, their are a few who do not like the proposed changes to Vancouver's by-laws and the restrictions being placed on the lounges outlined in a report received by Vancouver City Council from the Vancouver City General Manager of Planning and Development Services.

Campaign for Culture (CFC), who describe themselves as, "an association dedicated to the enhancement of the social and cultural fabric of British Columbia," believe the proposed changes don't go far enough and have started an email campaign in an attempt to get Mayor Gregor and his crew to lift some of the restrictions recommended for on-site lounges, specifically the size limit of 860 square feet, the 11 PM closing time and the limit of having only ability to host only 2 special events per month. CFC organizers believe that lounges should have the ability to be much larger, open later and host more events if they so desire, more in line with Provincial regulations.

At the time I am writing this post (Sunday, July 7) there are 13 items of correspondence related to this issue that have been sent for the Public Hearing and 12 of those are in the "oppose" column, all identically worded letters that have been generated by the CFC email campaign (read here). Despite the fact the CFC are not against the lounges existing, but instead are opposed to the restrictions being imposed on the lounge and special event areas, the letters are being considered by Vancouver City Council as opposition. Having spoken to the CFC folks, I have been told many more letters supporting their campaign are going to be sent to Vancouver City Council.

The problem with CFC trying to bring about these changes in this way is that by showing strong opposition to the recommended changes, especially when only one letter of support (read here) has been received, the whole process could grind to a halt and be rejected, meaning the status quo would remain and no on-site consumption lounges within Vancouver City limits even though Vancouver City Council passed Affleck's original motion and accepted the recommendations made by the General Manager of Planning and Development Services.

And although they have not made any official opposition known via the Public Hearing website, the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of British Columbia are not too keen on these lounges existing and could still mobilize their opposition. If ABLE gets rolling, it could be the death of the proposed changes as they are very well connected politically and have a lot of sway in the province when it comes issues related to alcohol.

Personally, I am okay with the regulations being proposed. I see these lounges as being small, intimate places, family friendly, where you go for to taste a few of your favourite brews right at the point of production, not places to go out with large groups of friends to get swacked on a Friday night until the wee hours.

I know the local craft beer industry is okay with moving forward as is in regards to the recommendations as they were part of the consultation process and were well aware of what was happening. For the first time in a long while those from the Vancouver craft brewing industry organized and worked together to help get Vancouver City Council to this point by making the Vancouver craft beer industry wants and needs known in regards to on-site consumption lounges. All brewery owners in Vancouver I have talked to do not want to have a lounge open until 2 or 4 AM at their brewery and would not staff one and stay open until those late hours even if they were allowed.

I am very disappointed that there has only been one letter of support and that did not come from any of the brewery owners who would benefit from these changes. I am also embarrassed to say that until I found out that there was no official support being shown for the changes save the one letter, I had not written in despite the fact it was my yelling and screaming about the issue that got the attention of George Affleck which resulted in a meeting between us and the motion that set all of this in motion.

I have rectified this and written my letter and if you love craft beer in Vancouver and want to support your local breweries and have the opportunity to enjoy some of their great beers in lounges at the breweries, I recommend you do as well. It takes 30 seconds to write an email of support that could result in permanent and positive changes to our local liquor policies. This type of thing is specifically what groups like the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are designed for and members should get active and support the cause. Getting these recommendations through the Public Hearing and changes made is a win-win-win situation for Vancouver, the local craft beer industry and craft beer consumers.

Email and let's get this thing done! Remember the hearing is Tuesday at 6 PM so emails should be sent before 4 PM on Tuesday.


  1. Hey Paddy, thanks again for raising the alarm on this important issue. It looks like some CAMRA social media got mobilized, and my fingers are crossed that people took the time to click their mouse three times & send Chuck's letter. If not, well, I guess apathy will get people what they ultimately deserve - nothing. But it won't be for your lack of trying!

  2. Thanks Chad. This is a good lesson to be learned by all. If we want to make changes happen, we need to be active and engaged in the process. I hope, if nothing else, through this whole process, people have seen one person yelling loudly enough in the right direction can make a difference and many doing the same thing can be virtually unstoppable.