Community hall ‘subsidizing weddings’ as vow venue

Tofino’s municipal council is butting heads with its staff over whether wedding receptions should continue being held at the community hall.

Wedding receptions can currently be booked at the hall for about $350 but district staff believe these celebrations are costing more than they’re bringing in and are hitting the facility with significant wear and tear.

The hall sits under Tofino’s recreation umbrella, which is held by community sustainability manager Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers said wedding receptions are often booked by out-oftowners who call upon district staff after hours or on days off to attend to their needs.

“We’re basically turning into wedding organizers or wedding planners for folks who are not familiar with Tofino or the venue,” he told council during last week’s regular meeting.

“There are existing wedding venues in Tofino that come with professional planners and equipment and, at this point, we’re competing with those (venues) at a fairly reduced rate.”

Coun. Duncan McMaster suggested not everyone can afford to celebrate in Tofino’s other venues.

“I’m still not comfortable with having no weddings,” he said. “It’s a community hall and I think community hall means a place for community celebrations.”

Coun. Ray Thorogood agreed and viewed the hall’s modest rates as a positive but Rodgers countered that the hall’s current rates are under review.

“The hall is cheap right now; it won’t be for much longer,” he said adding the district is working on a new policy that would see the hall’s rates align closer with other venues.

District CAO Bob MacPherson said the district is not recovering its costs for the hall’s wedding receptions.

“We are subsidizing weddings now,” MacPherson said.

Coun. Al Anderson said he was “somewhat uncomfortable” with nixing the hall’s wedding celebrations but suggested the hall can’t do everything.

“The community hall is filling a number of jobs that’s maybe beyond what it was really intended for,” he said adding the district is short on indoor space.

“There is some need to limit the amount of things that can go in there…The other thing is we have reduced our parks and recreation department; at one time we had more people to deal with whatever went on there.”

Coun. Dorothy Baert wondered if the district could implement a policy that would allow only those with residential addresses to use the hall for wedding receptions.

“The community owns the hall so their ability to use it for things that matter to them and the way it extends out to the community is valuable,” she said.

MacPherson questioned how such a policy could be enforced and cited potential loopholes like Tofitians booking the hall for outoftown family members.

“Secondarily, I’m wondering about lawfulness of place of origin discrimination,” he said. “We’ll have to look into that.”

Coun. Garth Cameron agreed that a locals-only policy could be problematic and suggested limiting the amount of receptions that take place at the hall each year.

Baert rejected staff’s idea of nix nixing wedding receptions altogether.

“You’re saying there are problems, so to say no weddings is one end of the spectrum of how to address those problems. I think what I’d be looking for is identifying what those problems are and having suggestions of how, through policy and regulation, we can address those problems and see if that takes us to a better place,” she said.

After the meeting, Rodgers told the Westerly that staff will look into ways of having wedding receptions continue at the hall under a policy that would likely include stricter planning and higher fees.

“Weddings are still allowed there and hopefully we’ll have something back to council by December to finally put it to bed one way or the other,” he said.

reporter@westerlynew.ca