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Liquor store finally opens in Franz’s Trail

Labour shortages among reasons given for late opening

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It was almost three months behind schedule, missing the busy Christmas season and most of winter, but at last another piece of the puzzle for the Franz’s Trail development fell into place on Monday with the official opening of a government liquor store.

"We’re pretty excited about that. I was there yesterday when they were stocking up the place and they did a really nice job with it," said Curtis Walker, Whistler-Blackcomb’s commercial asset manager for Franz’s Trail.

"It’s a good anchor tenant for us to draw people to the rest of Franz’s Trail."

In October, the space was leased by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, and renovations to the store were expected to begin immediately to have the space open for Christmas, New Year’s at the latest. Labour shortages, which have affected other local projects, were partly to blame, but there were also some logistical problems to overcome.

From the beginning of construction in 2001, a provincial liquor store was regarded as a priority for Franz’s Trail, along with a grocery store to service the growing local population to the south of the village and new hotels and developments in Creekside.

A series of delays, including the construction of the parking lot, have plagued the development since the beginning. Some of those delays stem from the ongoing work cleanup of an underground gasoline leak from the Petro Canada site, which has prevented developers from rerouting Whistler Creek.

The gasoline cleanup is the reason why the side of the parking lot is still exposed, although the plan is to landscape the area once the creek is moved.

The construction of the Black Forest Steak and Schnitzel House, the gateway restaurant at the corner of Lake Placid and Highway 99, is also behind schedule.

"There’s still a ways to go. I know the original plan was to have it open for Christmas, then sometime in the early spring, but it’s going to be June now," said Walker.

"We have had a bit of an issue with labour up here, getting things done on a timely basis with the number of construction projects going on, and resources are hard to come by. A lot of times it’s out of our hands, it has to do with our contractors getting in there, and these are the kinds of problems they’re experiencing."

This spring and summer people can expect the landscaping to continue, as well as the construction of a new water feature on the corner. The entire project won’t be wrapped up until the creek can be rerouted.

There are currently three empty spots in the Franz’s Trail development, and Whistler-Blackcomb is seeing interest in those spaces. One proposal would have the largest space, formerly Gravity, become a pharmacy. Other proposals include hair salons, insurance agencies, doctors’ offices and a hookah lounge.

"I told them they needed to check the smoking bylaws before they went any further," said Walker. "We’ve also seen proposals for more food and beverage outlets, but we don’t want to put any more in there, that’s already maxed out. We do think things like a pharmacy, services that people need, are more appropriate."

Glen Kary, the new manager of the liquor store, relocated from Cranbrook. The store will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and until 9 o’clock on Friday. It will be closed on Sunday.

The store currently has a manager, assistant manager and two full-time clerks, but Kary said he would hire more people if it was busy. He worked more than 12 hours a day for two weeks to get the store ready for March 14.

"This will be a big change for me, but it’s a very exciting area and I’m looking forward to working here," he said. "I understand the village locations are both pretty busy and that it’s hard to find parking, so we think this will be a good alternative for people. There’s lots of parking, there’s a grocery store, there’s a lot of other stores. It’s a bit of a secret right now, but I think once people see the convenience things will get a lot busier for everyone."

Ken Nielsen, the owner of Dream Merchants of Whistler, said the new location is busier than his previous location on Main Street, and that his customers do like the free parking and convenience.

"We’re extremely happy, the traffic is excellent and the liquor store in only going to make it better. It’s really a one-stop shopping place for locals and visitors," he said.

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