Vancouver city council targets disorder on Granville Street with liquor policy changes

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      Vancouver council has approved changes to city liquor policies following a review of current regulations.

      A number of these adjustments cover Granville Street between West Georgia and Drake streets.

      The Granville Entertainment District (GED), which runs on a shorter stretch from West Georgia Street to Nelson Street, has the highest concentration of liquor establishments in the city, and it is known for fights, assaults, and disorder.

      One measure adopted by council on Wednesday (June 14) is to test a “last entry” hour program, in which new patrons will not be allowed to come into clubs and bars at the GED within one hour of closing time.

      The pilot starts on July 1 this year, which is also Canada Day.

      "We obviously want to do everything we can to minimize violence and excessive drinking," Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. 

      Representatives of the bar and club industry questioned at the council meeting the effectiveness of the “last entry” program, claiming patrons will only go other places in the city.

      The liquor-policy changes are seen to boost ongoing efforts to transform Granville Street into an inclusive shopping, dining, and entertainment district.

      According to a staff report considered by council, city hall is working with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association on a “Granville Refresh vision”.

      “The vision for the street is an inclusive shopping and restaurant district, with a variety of entertainment businesses attracting a wide demographic of day and night-time patrons,” the report noted. “Generally, the approach for the street is more about shopping, activites, and ‘eating’, with less drinking.”

      According to staff, the policy changes relevant to Granville Street will “enable these larger efforts”.

      In a separate presentation at the council meeting Wednesday, staff indicated that the vision for the downtown street is a vibrant and diverse destination.

      The street is seen to have “revitalized retail and restaurants” and a “mix of day and night attractions”.

      One measure approved by council was the amendment to the GED moratorium on converting food-primary seats to liquor-primary seats to include a freeze to additional liquor-primary seats on Granville Street from West Georgia to Drake streets.

      There will be limited exceptions such as for live performance venues.

      Another amendment is to not allow new liquor stores on Granville Street between West Georgia and Drake streets, and within 150 metres in the surrounding area.

      Two other staff recommendations approved involve the management of crowds outside establishments. One is to require clubs and bars in the GED to provide the city with updated patron management plans. The second is for an increase in enforcement and ticketing for GED establishments that do not manage patron line-ups.

      Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs says the city wants to reduce violence and excessive drinking on Granville Street.

      Staff had originally recommended a one-year pilot for the “last entry” hour program. However, an amendment brought forward by  councillor Meggs directed staff to report on its effectiveness after six months.

      The evaluation of the pilot program will be referred to a working group that was also successfully proposed by Meggs.

      Meggs  moved to call staff to establish a working group of stakeholders in the GED, police, Vancouver Coastal Health, and community organizations “to improve consultation and co-ordination of efforts to reduce street disorder and gender-based violence, and to improve business in the area”.

      In the interview, Meggs said that council found itself in a tough spot regarding the "last entry" hour program suggested by staff.

      In addition to club and bar operators having concerns about it, Meggs said that many councillors were "uneasy about how quickly this came forward", hence the "compromise" of having staff report back in six months about the program.

      Another amendment by Meggs is to refer to this working group a staff recommendation to not allow the relocation of seats inside liquor-primary establishments on Granville Street between West Georgia and Drake streets to patios until disorder is reduced.

      Council also adopted Meggs’ suggested to “delay any increase in capacity or  service hours” in the GED until city staff are “satisfied that night transit service has increased to an appropriate level”.

      Council likewise approved his suggestion to direct staff to report back by the end of the third quarter of 2017 about broader issues regarding the GED.

      Regarding other amendments, council approved a staff recommendation to disallow new liquor stores in the Downtown Eastside.

      Council also endorsed allowing grocery stores to sell liquor through a store-in-store model. It adopted staff recommendation not to permit wines to be sold on grocery store shelves.

      The provincial government changed regulations in 2015 to allow both the store-in-store and wine-on-shelf models. Only B.C.-made wines can be sold on shelves. A number of other cities in Metro Vancouver and across the province allow wines on store shelves.