More than 30 Masset residents packed council chambers Monday night (Aug. 29) to share their views about the latest liquor licence application in the village.
Midlife Enterprises, owned by Rollie Wheeler and John Chutter, has applied for a liquor primary licence which would allow it to operate a 65-seat bar known as Players Lounge, above their Seabreeze Restaurant on Main Street.
The application has generated much public interest. Administrator Trevor Jarvis told the public hearing that the village received 39 written responses by the deadline – 29 in favour of the application, and 10 opposed.
He read out a list of the writers, and whether they were in favour or not. Those opposed included three other owners of liquor primary licences in town: Dadens Industries, the Singing Surf Inn and Steve Marshall, owner of Mile Zero Pub.
Sitting in the front of the room and listening to residents were mayor Barry Pages and councillors Janet Brown, Lorrie Joron, and Ed Woode.
Mr. Wheeler, who is also a council member, spoke as the applicant, telling the hearing that his establishment already has a restaurant endorsement which allows it to serve liquor. He wants a liquor primary licence for the upstairs area so he can provide entertainment and keep children out. Under his current licence, he said, he has no choice but to allow minors upstairs, and he would like to have a quiet place where adults can drink without kids or teenagers around.
His venue will not compete with the other bars in town because it will attract an entirely different clientele, he said, and offers something not available anywhere else in the Masset area, or on the islands for that matter.
“We’d like to do things like dinner and a dance,” he said. “This kind of entertainment is probably only provided on the mainland.”
It’s obvious the Seabreeze and Players are offering something new and appreciated because they are attracting many customers, he added.
Many of the residents attending the public hearing agreed.
“Would Players be an asset or a liability to the community?” asked Ed Robinson. “I would say definitely an asset.”
Fishing lodge owner Rick Grange said his clients would enjoy going to Players to watch a sports game while having a quiet drink, and that nowhere else in Masset offers this.
“I think we need another place in town,” agreed Gerry Stevens. “We’re trying to attract tourists here.”
Wilson Brown said he fully supports Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Chutter.
“I’m one of those people that don’t go out and I rather enjoy going up to the lounge,” he said, adding that he has never seen a crowd outside Players after closing time. “It’s more for those of us older people… I think it’s going to create a whole new clientele.”
Steve Marshall, however, said the reason there’s no crowd outisde Players after it closes is because they all head to his Mile Zero pub.
“They’re all down at my place,” he said. “The other night, Thursday night… they had quite a group up there.”
Mr. Marshall also said his bar is quiet until 11 pm or so, and that the Singing Surf is also quiet.
John Disney said the community has massive social problems caused mainly by alcohol and drugs, and that this must be dealt with at some point. He has watched Masset go from having one liquor licence to this point, where there are four licences and this one pending.
“At what point do you say, enough is enough?” he asked council.
Bret Johnston said he didn’t think the number of bars in town was the problem, adding that there used to be only one liquor store in town. He added that his fishing clients have given Players “rave reviews”.
Flo Perdue also gave Players an enthusiastic endorsement, saying she and her husband had eaten there several times and enjoyed excellent service and food.
“It’s a real asset to the community and I hope they get the licence that they need,” she said.
Luisa Marshall agreed that it was a popular place to go, but wondered why Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Chutter want a liquor primary licence when they are so successful right now.
“I think it’s going really well right now with the existing licence they have,” she said. “Why ruin it?… If you guys think having a primary licence will make it better, personally, I don’t think so.”
The public hearing lasted about 45 minutes, after which mayor Barry Pages thanked everyone for expressing their views. Council will probably discuss the application at its next meeting, he said, which is scheduled for Sept. 12. (The liquor control board makes the decision about whether to approve the licence or not, but it will take council’s opinion, the written submissions and the record of the meeting into consideration.)
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