Draft report on liquor licensing falls short Whistler's hospitality industry concerned over number of licensed seats By Oona Woods A liquor licensing report commissioned by council is still in draft form but local hospitality industry businesses disagree with parts of it. The Whistler Food and Beverage Association has written to council outlining their concerns with the draft study. The draft report by Vancouver-based research company Pannell, Kerr, Forster, which specializes in service industry surveys, recommends that each new licence application in Whistler should be looked at very carefully. It says there should be no automatic granting of maximum liquor licences. It even goes so far as to say that in some cases the public should be consulted about new operations through a referendum. Mayor Hugh O'Reilly says the municipality received the draft report some time ago. "Individuals in the community looked at it and they liked the conclusions but they didn't like how they found them. They are not disputing the outcomes. Just the way they came about." Dale Schweighardt, president of the Whistler Food and Beverage Association, says he still has the highest respect for the consulting company but recognizes that they were in a difficult position examining Whistler. "The report in draft form was presented to council. To their credit the council recommended consulting us. So we've had an edited version. We are only reacting to what we were presented with. We're not comfortable with the comparisons made. They looked at Prince George and Kelowna, which are not valid comparisons. So we're not comfortable with the picture painted. It's too rosy." Schweighardt says Whistler is a case all by itself and doesn't benefit by comparisons to other B.C. towns. The liquor licensing study looked at the estimated number of visitors and the estimated number of licensed seats to accommodate them. According to Schweighardt the study implies that as many as 2,800 new drinking only seats can be expected in the next two or three years. "They used data from two years ago," says Schweighardt. "There were only 10 licensed drinking-only bars. They also used recent projections of visitor numbers. Since two years ago there have been several large licences granted, like the GLC, the Dubh Linn pub, Moe's, the new Garf's (which is the largest in the valley with 350 seats) and the Rogue Wolf. All of these basically double the number of drinking-only seats." Schweighardt says the projection of tourist numbers may not be relevant to the number of seats in town. "They looked at the total coming into the valley and put them in bar seats. But there are a lot of minors and elderly people coming in. They won't be drinking. There are also conventions coming through but they have a lot of planned events. Parents of kids coming in don't go out as much. Therefore you should take these people out of the picture and the equations." Schweighardt would like to see some of the recommendations of the report established. "One was the liquor licence advisory committee. This would consist of people from the muni, council and local businesses, as well as two people from the food and beverage industry. This will help greatly. In each individual licensing case the muni and council don't understand as well as someone who works in the industry. It's a tough situation. You don't want to begrudge people but then again B.C's liquor licensing laws are different than anywhere else in the world. There has to be some way to decide if Whistler has enough seats." Whistler's seasonal flux should also be taken into account, says Schweighardt. "There's no other area like it. We have such high times and such low times. It's hard to tell what's good and what's bad. You could count people in bars, or standing in lines in the village. But then even at high season there were a lot of places with no lineups all year. So if there's room within the facilities there's no need to build more. There are businesses on the brink of disaster. This is unfortunate. We are trying to keep the community stable." In the letter to council Schweighardt says the association feels that although the study has presented a more favourable picture than businesses are experiencing, the recommendations in the report show cause for immediate concern and action. "Our association would like to see current facts and figures included in the study before it is adopted by council and immediate action taken to ensure no further licensing occurs, which is not in the best interests of the community." Municipal staff and Pannell, Kerr, Forster will include feedback from the food and beverage association in the final report, which is expected to go to council next month.