Tofino’s newest hotel is hoping to expand it’s liquor service and open a lounge it’s calling the ‘Sunken Living Room’ but its neighbours aren’t ready to cheer the move.
Hotel Zed is asking for a liquor licence that would allow service from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. inside the lounge, which is proposed to have a maximum occupancy of 69 patrons and would offer an “area where guests can sit back, relax and enjoy the food and beverage experience,” while also being available for community meetings free of charge, according to a report from Tofino’s manager of protective services Brent Baker.
The report adds that the same liquor licence would include a ‘mini-disco’ with a lighted dance floor as well as a ‘Psychic Room’ and private dining room.
The hotel is also requesting a family foodservice endorsement that would allow minors to be in the licenced areas as long as they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Baker’s report, which was reviewed by Tofino’s municipal council during Oct. 27’s regular meeting, notes that the same property’s former hotel, Jamie’s Rainforest Inn, had requested an extension to its liquor service from midnight to 1 a.m. in 2015, but was denied due to negative community feedback.
True to form, several residents spoke against Hotel Zed’s application during the public question period at the start of last week’s meeting, with none speaking in favour of it.
Tofino resident Laura Loucks said she lives next to the new hotel and expressed concern over the impact the increased liquor service could have on the neighbourhood.
“As a parent and neighbour I’m very concerned about this proposal. I ask that council direct staff for feedback on this application from the broader community, including local residents living in the surrounding neighbourhoods and local service providers who deal with the harms from alcohol within the healthcare and criminal justice systems,” Loucks said.
She added that the “hidden costs” related to alcohol consumption should be investigated.
“There are real costs to this proposal and yet who pays in the end? It won’t be Hotel Zed. It will be our community and families who pay the cost,” she said.
She said alcohol is having negative impacts on the community and noted the district has been working on a municipal alcohol policy and has voiced a desire to limit alcohol use.
“This application does not line up with those efforts,” she said. “My second concern is normalizing an alcohol culture. The overconsumption of alcohol is real and it’s a growing issue in our region. This proposal normalizes a late night drinking culture that’s harmful in our community.”
She said the hotel is “surrounded by a community of homes, neighbourhoods and young people,” and asked council to listen to community feedback.
Former municipal councillor Cathy Thicke urged council to consult with the community.
“We are all impacted by this application, not just adjacent neighbours to the hotel,” she said. “I believe it’s your duty as council to protect the public health, safety and welfare of this community so I urge you to fulfill this duty and protect our nurses, doctors, RCMP, ambulance drivers and others who are working tirelessly under stressful conditions right now.”
Baker explained that council had the option of opting out of the decision and allowing the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to review Hotel Zed’s application, or they could choose to direct their own staff to collect feedback from residents and provide input to the LCRB.
“For the last number of applications, council has resolved to opt out, however every scenario is different,” Baker noted. “If council chooses to opt-out and not collect the views themselves, then they do not have the opportunity to provide any further comment.”
Council unanimously agreed to have the district conduct the review and provide feedback to the LCRB.
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