Vancouver’s EXP Restaurant + Bar fights ban on video games with liquor service

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      Vancouver resident Brian Vidovic envisions patrons of his forthcoming restaurant sitting down for a meal of burgers, beer, and Mario Kart.

      But the co-owner and creative director of EXP Restaurant + Bar, slated to open in July at 309 West Pender Street, told the Georgia Straight that the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch is standing in the way of his dream.

      That’s because, after Vidovic applied for a food-primary liquor licence, the LCLB stipulated in writing that the use of video-game consoles will be prohibited in the restaurant.

      “It’s been a bit of a struggle, because they initially thought it was gambling,” Vidovic said by phone. “I made it very clear that it’s not gambling, and then they just outright said no, because they don’t understand it.”

      A former game designer at Radical Entertainment, Vidovic is one of EXP’s three co-owners. Their plans call for video-game consoles and TVs at tables, “game-ready” food that won’t get customers’ hands dirty, and background music from games. The idea is to create a comfortable environment for gamers and people curious about games.

      “Video games are a legitimate, interesting, and powerful entertainment medium,” Vidovic said. “We want to just illustrate that in the most profound way possible, by throwing it in what is typically seen as an adult venue. That’s our vision for it.”

      More than 2,900 people have signed Vidovic’s online petition calling on the LCLB to allow video games in EXP and other licensed establishments. His fight comes in the wake of the Rio Theatre’s successful, high-profile campaign to reform the provincial liquor-licence rules for movie theatres.

      “With your support online, the local community liaisons, MLAs, game and tech companies, restaurateurs, liquor license holders, and other public figures, we hope to change the entire licensing process from 2 licenses (food primary and liquor primary) to a more robust, efficient, and fair system that holds public safety at the highest echelon of importance, rather than the totalitarian control on entertainment based on an out-dated policy,” Vidovic’s petition states.

      The B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, which oversees the LCLB, didn’t make a representative available for comment today (June 13).

      According to the LCLB Licensing Policy Manual, last updated in March, “video arcade style games” and other games that require patrons to get up from their tables are not allowed in the licensed areas of food-primary establishments. Meanwhile, Internet-connected computers, and board and card games are permitted, provided they “do not alter the primary focus on the service of food” and can be played by seated customers.

      Vidovic asserted that it’s “ridiculous” that EXP is “being screwed” by “archaic” liquor regulations. He noted that the restaurant—which has raised more than $32,000 on the crowd-funding website Indiegogo—will open without video-game consoles if needed.

      But Vidovic maintains he won’t give up his fight to change the “silly” rules, which he believes stem from the outdated notion that video games are for kids.

      “That’s so wrong,” Vidovic said. “The average age of gamers is 34. It’s not for children anymore, and that’s where they need to update. It’s just an old policy. That’s how I feel about it. Everything needs to be updated with regards to entertainment, specifically video games.”

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      Comments

      22 Comments

      Erazoender

      Jun 13, 2012 at 5:22pm

      It's absolutely ludicrous that they're refusing to let video games be played in a bar like such. Even if the general (outdated) notion is that video games are for kids, what's the problem with allowing video games to be played in a bar? Even if it's for a "minority" of people, there's still nothing wrong with it.... and Casinos are allowed without a doubt. Such hypocrisy.

      Not to mention the whole Rickshaw ordeal; they managed with alcohol and all ages for years until the city slammed down on it.

      0 0Rating: 0

      Ren

      Jun 13, 2012 at 5:37pm

      From looking at the laws its "arcades = youth = no booze". It's totally outdated since many adults game.

      But the location of EXP is terrible - right across the street is Convenant House, housing for youth and on the same block is housing for mental house/ addictions that also has youth living in it. With that said, it be a hard sell to win.

      More info please

      Jun 13, 2012 at 6:46pm

      Can someone explain what would have happened if he applied for a liqour primary licence instead? Id guess he wouldnt have had the same problem since pool tables and darts are allowed at pubs for instance so why not video games.

      A video game pub makes more sense than a restaurant in my opinion if he wants it to be more adult orientated. Just my two cents, and i cant wait to check it out.

      Granville

      Jun 13, 2012 at 8:52pm

      BCLB probably evaluated its chance of success as a business (no prev experience and bad location) and decided to save this "entrepreneur" a bunch of trouble.

      Osler

      Jun 13, 2012 at 9:39pm

      @More info please
      It's a non-starter since the city controls zoning and no bars allowed.

      MillsGee

      Jun 13, 2012 at 10:25pm

      There's absolutely zero reason for the liquor board to deny video games - of all things - in a bar. In what universe does that make any kind of sense at all?

      0 0Rating: 0

      Arcturus

      Jun 13, 2012 at 10:51pm

      Great to know that Vancouverites can enjoy face smashing at UFC events, angry thrashing music at metal concerts, and naked women all with alcohol, but Mario Kart isn't allowed...#nofuncity

      Vancity Gamer

      Jun 13, 2012 at 10:51pm

      The concept of this establishment already works VERY well for AFK Tavern in Everett, which many Vancouver gamers, including myself, frequent. Gaming + food + alcohol is a time tested recipe for good, hassle-free fun. The gaming community is mature and respectful, violence and hard drugs belong in video games not in our real lives. EXP isn't a threat, in fact, it's probably the least of the area's worries for entertainment establishments. If anything the tax revenue from this venue will be paying for the policing of the traditional bars in the area! Help us help the city :)

      Anton

      Jun 13, 2012 at 10:54pm

      I just stay at home and pound vodka with my Playstation. God I'm lonely.

      tweet

      Jun 13, 2012 at 11:25pm

      Just in case, work on a really good unique virgin drink list.