Tofino council clashes over new liquor store application

“I don’t think is in the best interest of this community.”

Tofino’s Gas ‘N’ Go wants to begin selling alcohol at its convenience store, but concerns over the town’s reported overconsumption has council lukewarm to the idea.

During their May 28 regular meeting, council received a report from Tofino’s planner Peter Thicke who said the size of the Campbell Street convenience store would not change and that the applicant plans to create a separate area for liquor sales that would be blocked off from convenience store shoppers.

He said the application is still in its early stages and that, if council agreed to move ahead, district staff would work with the applicant and a public hearing would be held.

Coun. Al Anderson said he was hesitant to expand the community’s access to alcohol, but added that the new liquor store could decrease traffic congestion in Tofino’s downtown.

Coun. Tom Stere said he had “major concerns” with the application and cited a presentation council received from Medical Health Officer Paul Hasselback in March that suggested overconsumption of alcohol is the region’s largest health concern.

“I am not going to support this,” he said. “We’ve had a presentation from our Medical Health Officer explaining that it’s the number one public health issue in our region. Giving further access to a product that we know has those impacts on the community…I don’t think is in the best interest of this community.”

Coun. Duncan McMaster agreed.

“I remember when we had the presentation from [Hasselback] and this council specifically asked what they can do to help with this alcohol problem. So, I throw it back to council and ask us all if allowing more liquor outlets is helping to solve the problem? I won’t support it,” he said.

Coun. Andrea McQuade said she supported Stere and McMaster’s concerns, but suggested council should wait to see what kind of amenities would be offered with the application.

“If we’re going to look at somebody being allowed to open another liquor store, let’s look at commensurate and complementary contributions,” she said. “There are multiple points of access for alcohol in this community, which are a concern for this council, for the members of this community and our sensitive populations, but I’m hesitant to say no completely to an application that is a viable business opportunity for somebody in this community without hearing what may be complementary contributions.”

Mayor Josie Osborne agreed.

“I’m not prepared to say, ‘No’ at this point and outright reject it,” she said.

Stere and McMaster were the only votes in opposition as council voted in favour of moving ahead with the application.

READ MORE: Health officer urges Tofino to address alcohol problem

READ MORE: Study: B.C.’s regulation of alcohol second-best in the country but still failing

READ MORE: Tofino reviews first crop of pot shop applications

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