Saturday, March 16, 2019

Victoria council approves 197-seat lounge for brewing company in Old Town district

A proposal to add a 178-seat lounge to the new Herald Street Brew Works has been given the thumbs up by Victoria councillors.

The new brewpub will be attached to the brewery at 506 Herald St., at Store Street.

Some councillors were worried about potential noise complaints given the proposed 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. operating hours and the fact the pub will be so close to a growing residential area with the Ironworks housing development now under construction.

Applicants Mike and Lee Spence, owners of the Drake Eatery, said in a letter to council that they met with Chris LeFevre, developer of the Ironworks, to assuage his concerns about noise.

The Spences said they will not be selling jugs of beer or discount alcohol.

“We have practices in place that allow our leadership team to quickly recognize and deal with a patron on the way to impairment. We feel that this is important to maintain a comfortable ambiance for our wide range of guests,” the Spences said in the letter.

Mayor Lisa Helps urged councillors to approve the application, noting that 284 letters were mailed to residents and businesses in the surrounding neighbourhood about the application and only two objections were received.

“We have an opportunity to signal that we trust our local businesses to come up with business models that are going to benefit both themselves and benefit the community,” Helps said.

She noted the initial operating hours are planned to be much shorter than the licence would allow, “and if goes well they’ll be able to open earlier and later to fit in with the other businesses that are doing similar business in the downtown.”

“This is a local business owner who wants to open another local business in a nearby establishment to their current establishment to provide craft-brewed local beer to our residents and employees and businesses in the downtown,” Helps said.

In a separate letter, Lee Spence said the plan is for a comfortable environment. To encourage conversation, there will be no TVs.

Background music will be playing. Occasionally there will be live music.

Games such as darts and pinball may be included in one section of the lounge.

“We will monitor our guests and ask that they be respectful to any neighbours when they leave the building,” she said.

Coun. Ben Isitt noted that the Downtown Residents Association land-use committee had not objected to the application last year based on information it received that the capacity was to be for 100 patrons and that lounge operations would not run past midnight.

He suggested the item be referred back to staff to work with the applicant to potentially adjust the occupant load and hours in light of the association’s concerns, but that motion failed.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she was concerned about the hours of operation.

Most of the current neighbours are businesses that are not occupied at night.

But that will soon change as projects such as Ironworks open. There’s also a seniors care facility nearby, she noted.

She said that 10 p.m. would be a good initial closing time to see if there are any problems in the neighbourhood.

“I know to some, when I see some of my colleagues shaking their heads, that this must be a buzz-kill.

“But I’m also responsible for the livability of residents that are in this neighbourhood and I think there can be some balance of it being an exciting business, which I’d love to see. But I think the [occupancy] numbers and the 2 a.m. [closing] on the street far exceeds other businesses we have approved.”

While the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch is the licensing authority, it seeks endorsement of applications from local councils before making its decision.

Councillors voted 7-2 to endorse the application.

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