For a change, Comox Valley RCMP support later liquor hours

The Comox Valley RCMP would support the Avalanche Bar and Grill in Courtenay staying open until 2 a.m.

Courtenay council received an application Monday from the Avalanche for a permanent change to its liquor licence and heard from general manager Devin Moldenhauer, who is hoping to fill what he sees as a gap in the market.

The Avalanche Bar and Grill is approved to operate from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Moldenhauer is asking to change the operating hours to 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day.

Council received a letter from Comox Valley RCMP Insp. Tom Gray stating that, on the balance, the RCMP supports the Avalanche's application to extend its hours of operation.

"In the past, we have spoken against later hours of operation for a number of liquor establishments due to our concern with an increase in calls for service," he wrote. "A number of changes have occurred in the later evening 'bar situation' in that at the present time, there are now two establishments in the 'downtown' that are catering to patrons later into the evening."

The Bridge Lounge is open until 2 a.m., and the RCMP has observed a migration from the Avalanche to the Bridge after closing time at the Avalanche, noted Gray.

"The mixing of the two crowds appears to have more potential for policing issues than if the two crowds remain separated," he wrote. "We have also observed considerable effort on the part of our local establishments to not tolerate unacceptable behaviour. The effort to operate responsibly and support policing actions has been notable."

Moldenhauer pointed out there have been many changes involving local liquor primary licences in the last while.

The Lorne Hotel and Pier Pub burned, the Leeward Pub closed and Gulliver's Pub closed and reopened as the Flying Canoe West Coast Pub, decreasing its hours of operation.

"We feel there is a great supply and demand for local Comox Valley citizens, as well as out-of-town guests, wanting and needing a fun, safe and convenient liquor primary establishment to patronize into the later hours," he wrote to council. "As it stands now, we are turning away patrons with our current hours of operation and feel that with the current economic conditions, one cannot afford to do this."

Coun. Doug Hillian noted that staying open might lead to some concern about people leaving the bar more impaired, and he wondered what Moldenhauer has in place to make sure people aren't getting so impaired that they're not fit to go out on the streets.

"All our security staff have their (Basic Security Training) licence for security, all of our hospitality professionals have responsible servers of alcohol training," Moldenhauer told council. "We've been in the business long enough to know we don't want to get people into that state. It's against the Liquor Act, which we preach pretty hard."

Coun. Jon Ambler was supportive after hearing from the RCMP.

Coun. Larry Jangula, a retired police officer, voted against the application and raised concerns about the negative impacts of a bar staying open longer.

Gray attached an overview of calls for service around the Avalanche between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Monday through Sunday from Jan. 1, 2010 and March 30, 2011, to his letter showing that 54 police incidents were reported during that period.

"I do think that if we look at the fact that in a 15-month period, the RCMP responded to 54 incidents in that area, that's quite a lot," he said. "I'm not suggesting that's his fault or his patrons or bar hoppers or anything like that, but it is crime, and it is trouble."

Notices of the Avalanche's application will be sent to property owners and businesses within a 100-metre radius of the bar, requesting input on the proposed liquor licence change.

Once the views of the residents and property owners have been gathered, a proposed resolution will be presented to council for consideration June 13.

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