Tofino’s municipal council has held true to its promise to limit its community’s access to alcohol and has opposed a liquor licence application put forward by the town’s newest hotel.
During its last meeting of 2020, Tofino’s municipal council voted unanimously to write a letter urging B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to deny Hotel Zed’s application for a liquor primary licence that would allow alcohol to be served in several areas of the hotel daily from 9 a.m. to midnight.
Council first reviewed the hotel’s application for a new liquor primary licence on Oct. 27, though that application initially requested service until 2 a.m., explained Tofino’s manager of protective services Brent Baker during Dec. 8’s meeting.
He said the application initially asked for the licence to cover four sections of the hotel, a lounge with a seating capacity of 69, a mini disco room with a seating capacity of 11, a private dining room with a seating capacity of seven and a psychic room with a seating capacity of four.
He added that, shortly after Oct. 27’s meeting, the hotel requested to change their application from 2 a.m. to midnight and remove the psychic room from the licence.
Hotel Zed is located at 1258 Pacific Rim Highway and opened last year after taking over the property from Jamie’s Rainforest Inn. Baker noted that the new hotel inherited a food-primary liquor licence from Jamie’s that allows liquor to be served with food from 9 a.m. to midnight.
The district had reached out for input from community members and Baker said 22 individuals responded, 16 of whom expressed opposition to the liquor primary licence.
Complementing the community’s concerns was a letter from Medical Health Officer Sandra Allison, who wrote that she had reviewed Tofino’s work towards a municipal alcohol policy and agreed with the steps the district was taking to limit access.
“The critical areas for municipal leaders to consider with regard to policy setting to mitigate alcohol harms in the community include regulating alcohol availability, controlling alcohol pricing, ensuring safer drinking environments and safer communities, limiting alcohol marketing, preventing harms from drunk driving, and advocating for alcohol use prevention,” she wrote.
“Specifically, the siting of primary liquor permits would be a decision that community leaders could influence to ensure the community inclusion, safety and sustainability is not compromised by excess alcohol availability.”
Sgt. Todd Pebernat of the Tofino RCMP also weighed in, suggesting the new licence would increase pressures on local police.
“Alcohol consumption is a common denominator in many of the calls for service police respond to on a regular basis. Having an additional establishment to police will no doubt add pressures to the local detachment in the way of calls for service related to disturbances, impaired drivers, and other criminal activity,” Pebernat wrote in a letter to council.
Hotel Zed spokesperson Nikisa Dastmalchian told the Westerly News after council’s decision that the hotel had hoped to obtain the licence so that guests could enjoy casual beverages.
“We have this tiny mini disco that holds just a handful of people and one thing we envisioned was maybe if you’re eloping in Tofino you could use that room to have your first dance and have a glass of champagne in there,” she said.
She added that the hotel is listening to concerns put forward by residents and striving to be a good neighbour.
“We’re here to listen to their feedback and their input. We’re not disappointed and we’re not surprised, we’re just excited for what this space is going to be,” she said.
She added the hope is to host community events like paint nights and live poetry readings.
“The vision is that it’s somewhere that’s awesome for the locals to go because, as a hotel guest, you want to go somewhere for locals as well. You don’t want to go to a tourist trap, you want to go somewhere that is authentically part of the community and that’s what we’re trying to build,” she said.