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Cheakamus Crossing to get restaurant with taxpayers' help

Deal between Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies and Bearfoot Bistro in the works



A closed-door deal between the municipality and the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies Society is in the works to bring a new restaurant to Cheakamus Crossing.

The legacies society (W2010SL) will rent two of the six commercial spaces in Cheakamus from the municipality. It will then enter a joint venture partnership with the Bearfoot Bistro to run a restaurant and any catering business to its other venues, namely the Whistler Sliding Centre and Whistler Olympic Park.

It is the municipality's first foray into the world of a commercial, for-profit landlord.

The financial details of the agreement will not be made public according to an official with the legacies society.

But the municipality could be offering money in the form of a tenant inducement to seal the deal.

It is not clear where that money would come from if there were a tenant inducement.

"All the costs are shared and the profits are shared," said W2010SL President and CEO Keith Bennett.

"Hopefully this will become a bona fide, revenue-producing, tax paying business that helps support the non-profit side of our business."

It is believed the Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) gave the legacies society money through in-kind donations to build a kitchen to support the athletes at the High Performance Centre.

The chair of the Whistler 2020 Development Corp. Eric Martin, the wholly-owned municipal subsidiary which built the commercial units, said there has been little interest in renting the space to date.

There was one inquiry to the restaurant space.

"It never came to an offer," he said.

"This made a lot of sense.

"We see it as a community amenity as much as anything."

In addition, the municipality is also putting money from the RMI (Resort Municipality Infrastructure) funding, once called hotel tax, into the holding company that owns the six commercial units, said Sharon Fugman, the municipality's manager of legal services and special projects.

The 2011 budget, posted on the municipal website, contains no line item under the RMI disbursements to go towards these commercial units.

The municipality is the sole shareholder of the Cheakamus Leasing Corporation (CLC), which owns the properties.

There are no tenants in the six units currently.

"There are costs of ownership including strata fees, utility bills, property taxes, and it's typical the shareholder would infuse capital into a company to get it going," said Fugman.

"No one's been paying rent so we haven't been collecting revenue and yet we have to still pay strata fees.

"Where else is CLC going to get money from but from its shareholder?"

The legacies society would be its first tenant.

It was always planning to have a kitchen in the neighbouring High Performance Centre in order to feed visiting athletes and their families.

Rather than compete with a neighbourhood pub and restaurant, the legacies society and the municipality worked on this deal.

It is about 1,200 square feet of space with room for roughly 75 chairs inside, and 100 chairs outdoors on the patio.

"One of the reasons that we're working with the Bearfoot is that they have demonstrated that they have been very successful restaurateurs through thick and thin and even under difficult conditions here in Whistler and a lot of that has to do with preparing the appropriate menu for your client base," said Bennett. "They're also quite capable of preparing menus and operating kitchens effectively... based on whatever clients they are anticipating."

While discussions are on-going it is hoped that the restaurant will be up and running by September. Rather than a high-end champagne and oysters restaurant like the one in the village, the Cheakamus Crossing eatery is set up to be a family-oriented place with healthy food options.