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GranFondo fuels Whistler's pitch on liquor laws



Whistler will be bolstering its case to the province for more lenient festival liquor laws after a successful, family-fun GranFondo after party.

Councillor John Grills, the council representative on the municipality's Liquor License Advisory Committee, confirmed staff is working on a draft response to the province as it opens the doors for feedback on liquor law reform this fall.

The successful GranFondo after-party comes at a crucial time, he added, to strengthen Whistler's argument for more festival-type liquor licensing where minors and adults can be together.

"I think having this knowledge (of a successful test event at the plaza) will help us," said Grills.

If this year's GranFondo after party on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 7) was a test then Whistler passed with flying colors.

"As far as we know, everything went so smoothly that we expect to be able to have this happen again and again and again," said an elated Kevin Thomson, president of GranFondo Canada. "And maybe we've broken some new ground and you'll see this happen at other events."

For the first time GranFondo was allowed to host an event at Whistler Olympic Plaza that allowed drinking with minors were present. The plaza was fenced off and those legally allowed to drink wore a wristband. It was a significant change from previous years where people were corralled into a beer garden away from family members with minors.

Whistler RCMP Sergeant Rob Knapton confirmed that there were no incidents.

"It was a non-event as far as we were concerned," Knapton said. "No concerns at all from our end."

A ministry spokesperson confirmed that provincial liquor inspectors also attended the event "and felt it went well."

For local rider Phil Chew the atmosphere was good, better than years past and he thinks the participants appreciated the change.

"It was very casual there, everybody was laying around on the grass and having a beer, not fenced off in a little corral area like other years, and it was a lot better," said Chew.

The event was licensed under the new catering licenses, introduced by the province earlier this year.

The Listel Whistler Hotel, home of the Barefoot Bistro, secured a catering endorsement to its food-primary license, which allows minors at catered events. Barefoot owner André Saint-Jacques said the change was a big hit. Roughly 40 per cent more riders came to the after party at the plaza and he estimates his revenues were up about 15 per cent over last year.

"Even though there were less racers, we served more racers their meals and their beer... than we did last year," said Saint-Jacques.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was pleased that the event went well and what that may mean for the future.

"I would be hopeful that we would be able to expand this to not just the GranFondo but to use it periodically for other events as well," she said.

In August, the province began a review of B.C.'s liquor laws "to find practical, responsible solutions that improve consumer convenience and grow B.C.'s economy, all while ensuring public safety."

That's all welcome news to some industry stakeholders in Whistler, like Saint-Jacques.

"We're in the tourism business and we're here to cater to those people that come here... and make this a more enjoyable experience when they come here," he said. "I'm happy that it's finally changing, but I'm amazed that we had to wait until the 21st century."

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