Vancouver city council is taking another shot at serving up a new liquor bylaw.
The move comes after a proposed measure—that would require licensed restaurants to sell as much food as alcohol and force some to roll back their closing times—didn’t go down well with industry members.
The liquor bylaw was supposed to be part of council’s agenda on November 3 but was pulled to allow staff to hold consultations with members of the restaurant industry.
“We thought it was important to revisit the bylaw to ensure that it is reflective of what the intent was, which was to better manage the liquor-primary [licence] versus the food-primary dynamic, and not unnecessarily or unintentionally catch some restaurants that are food-primaries operating legitimately but happen to sell very expensive alcohol,” councillor Raymond Louie told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
However, restaurateur James Iranzad claims that this step has left him and other industry members confused about council’s intentions.
Iranzad, an operating partner in Corkscrew Entertainment, which owns three West Side restaurants, pointed out that council could have simply removed the two controversial provisions in the bylaw.
One is for restaurants to have a 50-50 ratio in food and alcohol sales in any given eight-hour period. Another is uniform closing times of 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends effective January 1, 2010, which would affect the 20 percent of licensed restaurants in the city that have later closing hours.
On October 24, the Straight reported on its Web site that Iranzad is trying to persuade other members of the restaurant industry to support a legal challenge of the bylaw.
“We’re interested in some legal action to block the bylaw, but at this point we’re just waiting to see what happens,” Iranzad said by phone on November 3 when asked about his next move. “Obviously, council is not finished. They’re going to put a new proposal together that, hopefully, addresses all the issues.”
In conversation, Louie indicated that the 50-50 rule may still be maintained, although with some adjustments.
“We’re looking [at], for instance, if an entire bottle of wine was purchased, [whether] we should separate that out from the equation as we do assessments, rather than tabulate it as part of the 50-percent alcohol,” the Vision Vancouver councillor explained.
With respect to liquor service hours, Louie said that council isn’t keen on allowing some restaurants with grandfathered licences to serve liquor later than the 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. closing times. “Equity across the board and giving everybody the same opportunity is important,” he said.
Yaletown is very much a restaurant and fashion-boutique district, according to Annette O’Shea, who noted that the trendy quarter has about 75 dining establishments.
O’Shea is the executive director of the Yaletown Business Improvement Association, and she suggests that council consider some basic fashion rules to guide its decision on the liquor bylaw.
“If a man wears a beautiful suit with a cheap tie, people remember the tie,” O’Shea told the Straight by phone. “You have a great meal with subpar beverages, they’ll remember that it didn’t go well. Any woman knows that with a great outfit, you’ve got to accessorize properly because this makes the outfit. You can’t walk in a dress and running shoes.”
O’Shea also said that since Vancouver takes pride in being a world-class city, it should live up to that status through its liquor laws.