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Cheakamus pub future uncertain

Legacies society pulls out of restaurant deal at last minute



Cheakamus Crossing may not be getting its neighbourhood pub after all, another disappointment for some of the hundreds of new residents.

With the Whistler 2010 Sports Legacies Society (WLS) backing out of the restaurant/pub deal at the last minute and a new application for a liquor license from Hostelling International now in the works, the fate of the pub hangs in the balance.

"It's upsetting," said resident Marc Kester. "Obviously I still love my neighbourhood... but it's nice to have those amenities that make it more of a community and make it more convenient for us."

Residents, he added, had moved in expecting a bigger park, use of the Whistler Athletes' Centre gym and a pub/convenience store. Only the gym and pub were under the WLS, but none have come to fruition to date.

WLS backed out of the deal before inking the lease last month, leaving the municipality short a commercial tenant. There are no tenants to date in the four available units.

"We're interested in offers," said Mayor Ken Melamed of the commercial space in The Falls building this week. "Then we have to decide what do we do if we don't get offers, what happens to the space, what's the highest and best use."

The WLS restaurant deal included a $300,000 tenant inducement from the municipality for improvements to the space.

Even with that inducement WLS president and CEO Keith Bennett said the profit margin is not as high as they hoped it would be and the society needs to focus on the business of amateur athletes.

"It became risky for us," said a disappointed Bennett.

"We've had to refocus on our key target and how do we service athletes best, which is what we're there to do."

The athletes he said were not interested in buying meals at a local restaurant, preferring instead to make meals themselves.

"It's not because they want to," said Bennett. "They can't afford to do anything else."

WLS was set to be in a partnership with the Bearfoot Bistro.

When asked if the same tenant inducement was on the table for other prospective bidders, Mayor Melamed said:

"Of course. It always was. As landlord this is a very common practice in the industry."

But, he cautioned, the WLS was also bringing a sizable contribution to the table - $400,000. That's what made that deal work.

It's not clear now if WLS will move ahead with a self-serve kitchen in the athletes lodge. It will now be doing a feasibility analysis of the space. That space is set to look after and feed athletes and team members.

Meanwhile, Hostelling International has submitted an application to serve beer and wine in its café across the road from the empty municipal commercial space.

"It's just part of one of the things that our travellers want to be able to have," said Hostelling International CEO Alistair MacLean.

Residents too will be able to use the space. In fact, said McLean, they are some of the café's biggest customers right now, buying coffees and sandwiches.

Council discussed the commercial space issue at a closed meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The Whistler Development Corporation board, responsible for building the athletes village turned neighbourhood, is also meeting today (Thursday) and the commercial space will be on the agenda.

A new liquor license and a kitchen for athletes in the area could change everything," said WDC president Eric Martin.

"There's definitely not a market for anything more so my recommendation would be we would do something different," he said.

Cheakamus resident Mike Boehm agreed that the pub is a nice addition but he wasn't convinced it was a winning business proposition.
"I don't know how viable it was going to be to have a restaurant in this neck of the woods," he said, pointing to the restaurants across the highway in Function Junction.

When asked what could go in the space, rather than a restaurant he said:

"I don't know. I really don't.... Obviously it would be nice if it could be filled up right away."

Perhaps, he added, some time is needed before the best use comes to light.




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