Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cut off time in Prince Rupert! Council restricts number of liquor establishments with one kilometre rule

The August Council session finally delivered a long sought after goal for some council members of restricting the number of liquor establishments in the city.

With City Council voting last month to put in place a one kilometre rule between commercial establishments that sell beer, wine or spirits in the city.

The main thrust of the rule it would seem is to eliminate the prospect of the larger grocery store chains in the city from introducing the sale of liquor to their establishments, providing protection to the existing pool of the city's privately owned liquor stores both downtown and across the city.

The proposed bylaw was the featured topic of discussion during a Public Hearing on the issue on August 22nd, with one local establishment offering its support a the hearing towards the city council initiative. One other establishment had previously outlined their support for the motion through correspondence with the city, as did the President of the BC Government Employees Union.

The long running topic was first introduced for Council's consideration prior to the November 2014 election, with Councillors Thorkelson and Cunningham at the time leading the way towards putting in place limitations in the community.

Following the 2014 election campaign, they were joined by Councillor Niesh in the quest to put some form of regulation in place, with only Councillor Mirau offering up a counter opinion, based mainly on the theme that he did not believe that the city had a place in picking winners and losers in a free enterprise system.

That argument has been a constant one for Mr. Mirau whenever the topic has been introduced and he carried on with it as the final consideration for the bylaw took place on August 22nd.

He offered up a comparison on how some believe that the availability of fast food is for some a social issue, though he noted he doubted that the city would consider a rule to limit the number of fast food restaurants in the city, returning to his theme that he did not believe that the City should be restricting free enterprise in the community.

Councillor Thorkelson provided her own response to Councillor Mirau's opinions on Free enterprise, calling on her experiences with the Canadian Fish Company and how the community needs to protect its community assets and businesses as best as they can.

Earlier in the discussion, Ms. Thorkelson had also cited a number of social concerns related to any proliferation of access to liquor sales in the community.

She offered up some background notes that she had taken from a recent story item from the CBC's George Baker, which highlighted how Prince Rupert currently has one liquor outlet for every 2,500 people, using that information to suggest that the city has enough establishments in place at this time.

She highlighted some research from the University of Victoria on addiction issues and how Prince Rupert compared to other communities when it comes to liquor consumption in the province. She used that data in support of her opposition towards opening up any more liquor outlets in the community.

She also noted that the RCMP frequently cites alcohol when it comes to issues such as major crimes, vandalism and other areas of enforcement and that the city should be careful when it comes to making alcohol more available in Prince Rupert.

The city's current listings of liquor
sale establishments won't face any further
competition after the approval of a one kilometre
rule by Council on August 22
For both Councillors Cunningham and Niesh, the issue was one mainly of protecting jobs, with the
council members expressing their concerns that local jobs could be lost should the larger outlets in the community choose to move into the area of liquor sales in the community.

In the end it was that desire to protect jobs that would trump any nod towards consumer choice, or any desire to let the marketplace determine where local residents could have access to liquor sales in the community.

The motion to approve the bylaw was passed by Council, with only Councillor Mirau registering his opposition to it.

With its passage,  the bylaw will not apply to existing liquor sales establishments, however due to the proximity of existing liquor outlets in the downtown area, no further liquor sales establishments will be permitted.

You can review our full account of the discussion from our City Council Timeline feature here.

The discussion around the council chamber can be viewed from the City's Video Archive, the Public Hearing segment is found at the very start of the Council session, while the Council discussion on the issue starts at the one hour, six minute mark.

For more items related to City Council discussions see our Council archive page here.

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