Behest of the West: Time is right for a later last call

Tofino seems adamant on building a graveyard of unsupported liquor license amendments.

Ucluelet’s council recently supported a local restaurant’s application to extend its liquor service hours and the thud you just heard was the jaws of every restaurant manager in Tofino hitting the floor.

To understand their amazement is to understand that such requests are dead on arrival in Tofino’s council chambers.

Tofino seems adamant on building a graveyard of unsupported liquor license amendments so let’s take a short walk amongst the tombstones before they become too crowded to explore. Today’s tour will feature: Shelter, The Wolf in the Fog and Jamie’s Rainforest Inn.

Shelter still calls last call at midnight, three years after applying to push their liquor service to 1 a.m.

The restaurant’s owner Jay Gildenhuys spoke eloquently at a June, 2013, council meeting where he pleaded with council to let him cater to the dining needs of tourists arriving to town late at night.

Unfortunately, council had already received 13 letters from businesses and residents within 75 meters of Shelter who opposed the later service so Gildenhuys application was dead before he spoke a word. Coun. Dorothy Baert suggested the social needs of tourists didn’t outweigh the sleeping rights of locals.

The Wolf in the Fog had similar success last year when it asked to push its midnight service to 1:30 a.m. The restaurant’s manager Andre McGillivray presented an interesting case for his request suggesting that allowing the restaurant to be open later would actually cut down on noise by allowing patrons to leave over a staggered period rather than a mad all-at-once dash at closing time.

McGillivray added that locals and visitors were in need of a late-night option to eat and socialize.

Coun. Greg Blanchette seemed close to being swayed by this sentiment and suggested locals who get off work after restaurants have closed tend to head to the beach to unwind with, he assumed “a stack of Lucky.”

Ultimately though Blanchette sided with the 14 letters council received from locals opposing the application. During this conversation, Coun. Cathy Thicke suggested Tofino has no room for a late-night crowd.

“What’s really emerging is people in this town are standing up and saying, ‘We want to have the kind of people who are coming here because they want to be up at 7 a.m. going hiking and kayaking and surfing,’” she said. “This is the kind of people we want to encourage to come here and that’s the kind of people I think we are.”

Located within the wilderness outside Tofino’s downtown core, Jamie’s Rainforest Inn appeared to have a solid shot at ending the streak last year when it asked council to support its application to push service from midnight to 1 a.m. In a savvy move, and probably also an honest one, Jamie’s general manager Ryan Orr focused his presentation on locals.

Jamie’s, Orr said, was getting hit with a rush of customers at midnight as staff from surrounding resorts got off work. He reminded council that Jamie’s primary business is a hotel and the first people to complain about noise would be its own customers but his words were moot before they were spoken as council had received five letters from residents opposing the later service.

“I’m always concerned with what the neighbourhood thinks and to get one complaint is enough for me,” concluded Coun. Duncan McMaster.

To be clear, council cannot directly amend a restaurant’s liquor licence, that authority belongs to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch but council’s word is either gold or napalm when it comes to an application being approved.

While council gets blamed and stamped with the ‘No Fun Tuff’ label, they act as they are instructed to act by those who elected them.

In each of these three cases, council referred to letters from the public before denying the request.

In every case, some letters inevitably come from competing businesses with a financial stake in the application being denied, but council often ignores these. The voices they listen to are the voices of residents.

We have all chosen to live in the most beautiful corner of the world and we have all struggled to get here. Opportunity is not in abundance on the West Coast; we fought our way in because we wanted to live within these surroundings. The fight to live in this paradise should not include sacrificing a healthy social nightlife.

Towns need young families to buy houses, pay taxes, and increase school enrollments. These families cannot be expected to arrive pre-assembled.

They are much more likely to show up like an Ikea malm dresser; two young single people arrive and, given the right tools and conditions, several years later a family has been assembled.

A healthy nightlife helps locals meet locals and that’s important. Equally important is the fact that locals working weird hours to cater to tourists, who have thrown their daily routines out the window, need a place to eat and unwind after work.

A lights out by midnight routine might make sense in a community of nine-to-fivers, but that’s not what Tofino is. Council won’t stop refusing to allow restaurants to stay open later until you let them.

It’s time to let them.


Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.