Masset liquor licence application an issue

  • Aug. 17, 2005 6:00 a.m.

By Alex Rinfret–A Masset bar owner says he is concerned about the growing number of liquor licences in town.
Steve Marshall of Mile Zero Pub said as far as he can tell, Masset already has one of the lowest population to bar ratios of any community in northern BC. An application from the Seabreeze Restaurant on Main Street, if approved, could bring the ratio to a “disastrous” level, he said.
Right now, there are four liquor licences in the area, which according to Stats Can has a population of just over 1,600. (The four licences are owned by Mile Zero, the Singing Surf, the Legion and a lounge at the airport which is still under construction.) If the Seabreeze receives a licence, the ratio would go from 407 people per bar to 325, Mr. Marshall said.
“When there’s too many liquor licences, it becomes destructive competition,” he said.
By comparison, Queen Charlotte and Skidegate, with a combined population of just under 1,800, have two bars between them.
Although competition between most stores is good for consumers, Mr. Marshall said competition for liquor sales is a different matter. When bars are doing well, staff can confidently cut off customers who have had too much to drink, and turn away customers who are obviously drunk, he said. But once bars start losing money, he said, it becomes difficult to turn away customers, who will just take their business down the street if they are cut off.
Rollie Wheeler, who owns the Seabreeze with John Chutter, said Mr. Marshall’s objections to his licence application don’t make much sense, and seem to have more to do with competition than anything else.
“I don’t think you should deprive the people from the right of choice,” he said. “It’s up to the people where they go.”
Mr. Wheeler said he decided to apply for a liquor primary licence for his upstairs area (known as Players Sports Lounge) due to demand from his customers. The Seabreeze is allowed to serve alcohol right now as a restaurant/lounge, but the liquor primary would allow them to keep minors out of the upstairs area, put in a pool table or dart boards, and bring in local entertainment, he said.
“We’ve had numerous, numerous requests for that,” he said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response to our business.”
Mr. Wheeler said he didn’t see how having more bars in town could possibly lead to drunk customers being served instead of turned away.
“You have a social and legal obligation to the people of the community not to serve anybody to the point of intoxication,” he said. “You are responsible to the public and you are responsible to the government to follow all rules and regulations.”
The Seabreeze application is for a liquor primary licence to operate Players Sports Lounge from 11 am to 1:30 am Monday to Saturday, and from 11 am to midnight Sunday. The proposed bar has a capacity of 65 people, said Masset village administrator Trevor Jarvis. Copies of the application are available at the village office, and the village will be holding a public hearing on the issue on Aug. 29 at 7 pm.
Sgt. Jim Vardy of the Masset RCMP detachment said police are aware of the Seabreeze application, but will not be making a comment on it.
“We will not be voicing an opinion,” he said, adding that the RCMP will police whatever number of bars the public thinks is appropriate. The issue is sensitive, he said, because local businesses will make or lose money depending on the outcome of the licence application, and it is therefore not appropriate for police to get involved.
Sgt. Vardy said there is obviously a problem in the Masset area with alcohol abuse, but there’s no clear connection between this and the number of bars in town.