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Municipality gains right to approve liquor outlets

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The municipality has taken control of the eight retail liquor applications in Whistler with a recent zoning bylaw change.

The amendment, which was adopted last Wednesday, means that those applications sitting before the provincial government must first be subjected to municipal zoning approval.

"A key thing is that we won’t issue the licence unless it’s properly zoned and it’s in compliance with the municipal zoning and bylaws," said Cindy Stephenson, spokesperson for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

This gives the municipality the chance to approve or reject the application first. It also grandparents the seven existing stores in Whistler.

The amendment was passed two days after a public hearing on the zoning amendment proposal, held prior to the Jan. 13 council meeting. There were no speakers at the public hearing.

At the last council meeting in December some councillors expressed concerns that the province had offloaded the responsibility of liquor stores but had neglected to give communities any control over new applications.

Whistler in particular has been very concerned about the implications of this change due to existing problems with noise and vandalism related to drinking in the village, as stated in an administrative report to council.

The report stated: "This problem has in part been associated with the accessibility of liquor in Whistler Village."

In August last year the provincial government lifted its moratorium on licensing of new private liquor outlets. Throughout the province 523 hotels, bars or pubs applied.

In Whistler there were 28 eligible applicants but only eight applied. They are: the Pan Pacific Hotel, the Delta Whistler Resort, the Westin Resort and Spa, the AlpenRock House, the Listel Hotel, the Westbrook Hotel, the Brew House and Milestone’s.

"I certainly don’t think it’s an issue with only eight places having applied, and if you look at the places that have applied, it’s hardly as if we’re going to have a liquor store on every corner," said Ken Boyer, managing partner of the Dubh Linn Gate.

Boyer is hoping for approval to put in an upscale wine boutique in the Pan Pacific Hotel.

"(The applications) all seem to be gearing to service their own guests rather than being concerned about replacing the government liquor stores."

Currently the provincial government is wading through the slew of applications. Twenty new licenses have been issued to date.

Currently there are seven outlets, which sell packaged liquor in Whistler.

In a previous interview with Pique Newsmagazine , Mike Kirkegaard, senior planner with the RMOW said: "I think that there are existing locations and we need to carefully review the need for additional stores and the character of those stores."

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