New Stanley Park Brewing restaurant at former Fish House site faces opposition

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      Stanley Park Brewing is preparing to open a new dining establishment in the park it's named after. But neighbouring residents are not welcoming the news.

      The brewing company is slated to open in the building that formerly housed the Fish House in Stanley Park (8901 Stanley Park Drive). After 25 years in business, the Fish House owners decided not to renew their lease and closed the establishment on September 30, 2015.

      The park board approved a lease agreement with Stanley Park Brewing Co. in November 2016 for a restaurant with small-batch brewing on site and retail use.

      Although the background section of a proposal report submitted to the park board on November 23, 2016, referred to discussions about having Stanley Park Brewing Co. to "return to its original home in Stanley Park", the current company is not the same one as the original Stanley Park Brewing brewery that was located at Stanley Park's Lost Lagoon in 1897 (which the proposal also refers to) and ceased operations around 1903.

      The current same-named Stanley Park Brewing was launched in 2009. Labatt Breweries of Canada, a division of Belgian company Anheuser-Busch which has North American headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, acquired Stanley Park Brewing from the Mark Anthony Group in 2015.

      Exterior design concept of the forthcoming Stanley Park Brewing restaurant.
      Stanley Park Brewing

      Stanley Park Brewing has invested $4.5 million in developing the property and they're currently renovating the heritage building, which has operated as a restaurant since 1949.

      According to a January 15 Vancouver park board news release, the building footprint won't change. Among the new amenities are covered decks and upgraded public washrooms. The interior will consist of a main hall with 82 seats, a 32-seat dining area, a main deck with 68 seats, and a 40-seat indoor/outdoor bar-deck. (The maximum capacity will be 250 patrons, including those standing.)

      Stanley Park Brewing

      While the restaurant will brew small-batch beer in a contained system on site, and also offer year-round beer training, tours, and education to the public, the majority of the brand's beers will be made on Annacis Island in Delta. As the brewing system uses a vapour condenser, which condenses steam into water which can be drained and reused (thereby reducing water consumption), no odours or steam will be released outside the venue.

      Stanley Park Brewing

      The park board stated that the concept has received support or endorsements from the public, stakeholders, First Nations, the West End Business Improvement Association, and Stanley Park lawn bowling and tennis clubs.

      However, opposition has arisen from an ad-hoc group called the Stanley Park Advocates (SPA). The group has released a video citing their concerns, and launched a blog and an online petition.

      The video lists several concerns, including the lack of a public consultation process, impact upon ecosystems and the great blue heron colonies, potential consumption of beer in the park and littering, commercialization of Stanley Park, proximity to seven residential towers, and more.

      In September, Vancouver park board commissioner Sarah Kirby-Young told CBC that a public consultation was held in 2015 when the Fish House lease expired. However, SPA members contend that it wasn't held and that residents weren't informed about any events or the park board approval meeting.

      Vancouver park board communications department's Godfrey Tait clarified that a public meeting was held on November 28, 2016, when the concept was presented to the park board as part of a publicly available report. Tait stated that a notification of the development permit application was sent in May 2017 to over 100 residents in the area, followed by a notice of the liquor permit application in August 2017. In addition, park board staff led four open houses and meetings regarding the liquor permit application. 

      The park board said in their January 15 news release that the restaurant will work with the Stanley Park Ecology Society and residents to protect wildlife and ecosystems.

      "I am confident that we can deliver a restaurant at this historic location in a way that is completely consistent with our mission and mandate to protect and preserve parks and green space in the City of Vancouver," park board chair Stuart Mackinnon stated. "Our partners at the Stanley Park Ecology Society have reassured our Board that the magnificent Pacific Great Blue heron colony at 2099 Beach Avenue will not be harmed by the careful and continuing use of this space as a restaurant."

      Stanley Park Brewing

      Park board biologist Nick Page stated that herons nest at the Stanley Park colony from February to July, and are more sensitive at the beginning of that season. He added that the use of the outdoor patios will be during the summer, primarily after the herons have left.

      "Nesting herons are tolerant of urban activities once the colony settles in," Page stated in the news release. "The Stanley Park nesting colony co-exists with constant use of the surrounding area by people, dogs, tennis, lawn mowing and other park recreation and maintenance activities. In fact, some heron colonies benefit from urban locations because human use can reduce eagle predation on eggs and chicks."

      The proposed hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to midnight from Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays. (Within the first six months of operation, the restaurant will close by 11 p.m. and close patios by 10 p.m. due to concerns about noise from patios.) No entertainment or music will be used on the patio decks, the building is being insulated, double-glazed windows will replace single-pane windows, and signs will remind patrons to be respectful of neighbours when leaving.

      According to Tait, the contract with the brewing company ensures that the city will receive a mininum set annual guarantee, combined with a percentage of gross sales.  

      The SPA group plans to express their opposition to the plan when city staff presents a report to city council on Wednesday (January 17) to recommend a limited-liquor primary license for growler refills at the restaurant.

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