Difficult as it is to believe I have no real opinion one way or the other about London Drugs and their long, costly, and ultimately futile struggle to open a store in Whistler. For now the dream is over… Council has spoken. This council, anyway — I can see this thing coming back from the dead over and over again like Chucky.
As it currently stands the former Alpenrock space will not see its current mishmash of restaurant, recreation and office zoning amended to allow retail, enabling the construction of an 18,000 square foot London Drugs store in the village. Instead, it looks as if we’ll have a new bylaw in town limiting retail spaces to under 5,000 square feet.
The goal, according to the new municipal retail study, is to promote a unique mix of shopping experiences in the village, although exactly how they’ll accomplish this I have no idea. As far as I know the RMOW can’t dictate how much commercial landlords can charge or what stores can move where, except when rezoning is required. And retail is retail, whether you’re selling fur hats or bongs.
We’ve already lost our music store (Bestsellers), our head shop (Willy’s), our arts and crafts shop (Lotus), and a few of our funkier establishments are clearly struggling. If the book store ever closed, I’d seriously consider leaving town.
But back to London Drugs.
Its detractors said it would destroy other retailers in the village, leveraging a sweet rent deal and a level of buying power other businesses can’t match.
Its supporters said it would save retail in the village by acting as a magnet store for locals and visitors.
Its detractors said that if that was the case, increased traffic to the village would drive up rents for other stores even further.
Its supporters said it was necessary to make Whistler affordable to employees.
Its detractors said the loss of recreational space would make Whistler less amenable to visitors.
Its supporters said an overwhelming number of people surveyed supported it.
Its detractors said an overwhelming majority of village retailers opposed it, including the entrepreneurs who took a chance on Whistler in the early years and helped build this town.
The debate has been dizzying, leading me to support London Drugs one moment and oppose it the next. After a while I just stopped caring, which is probably why I officially have no opinion. I can sum up my feelings on this issue in two sentences: