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CALUC letter re Application to Extend Liquor Service Hours & Patron Participation-Toptable Victoria

10 November 2021

Dear Mayor Helps and Council, With regards to the Application to extend the hours of Liquor Service for the Food Primary Licence and obtain a Patron Participation Endorsement at 1515 Douglas Street for Toptable Victoria, from the Letter Of Intent and the Application, the DRA Land Use Committee understands the following:

  • The applicant seeks to extend their operating hours from 9AM to 12AM daily to 9AM to 2AM.

  • The total occupant load of 177 includes a 38-person outdoor patio.

  • The application includes a request for a Patron Participation Entertainment Endorsement to “enable patrons to dance in the food primary area of the establishment”.

  • If approved, the patron participation entertainment will end at 12AM.

In a subsequent conversation with Bert Hick from Rising Tide, it was outlined that this application is for a high-end restaurant modelled after the Aquilini Group’s Blue Water in Vancouver. He offered that the patron participation and extended hours are to accommodate buyouts for weddings and events. Feedback in response to the submitted documents is as follows:

  • This venue has yet to open its doors to the public so the impacts on the neighbouring community within its current business model are unknown and unproven, so an extension of hours and a change of business model to include patron participation entertainment seems premature.

  • As with all the food primary late night liquor applications, are these operations pubs or restaurants? Is there a difference any more? Or are they restaurants by day that turn into pubs at night?

  • In a similar trend evolution, we are seeing restaurants requesting extended liquor service hours so often that it is obviously a new need or at least a common customer request. I think that the LCRB needs to review their policies and categories in this post-Covid new F&B market rather than making this a neighbourhood association policy decision.

  • If they will not make an updated policy and we (all LUCs and Planning Departments) are to be in charge of these applications, then I recommend double licensed facilities, as stated previously: with a restaurant license from time A to time B and a pub license from time B to time C. Then they can follow the established rules for those categories during those times.

  • Without these changes, then we are being asked to sanction either rule breaking or possibly law breaking, which is not something I can support.

  • The “letter of intent” for this application is submitted by Susan Mander, a liquor- licensing specialist with Rising Tide Liquor and Cannabis Licensing Consultants, on behalf of the applicant, Roberto Aquilini. Unfortunately, the letter is virtually absent any specific information, treating the details as unproblematic. It asserts that food primary licensees “tend not to create problems in the community” and so “there should be no noise impact on the community” but rather “will add to the Restaurant and Hospitality offerings in Downtown Victoria” and offer “greater flexibility for the dining public”.

  • I understand that this application is essentially an addendum to a current application for food primary licensing. I hope that the latter application provides more useful information for making a decision. The applicant, Mr. Roberto Aquilini, of the well known Vancouver-based Aquilini Group, owns many properties and businesses, including hotels and restaurants. It is striking to me that Mr. Aquilini apparently does not feel the need to be more responsive.

  • I agree that this application follows a trend in wanting to treat a food primary restaurant as a late-night drinking establishment. It is not enough, as this application does, to merely assert that; “this establishment is not operated as a pub.”

  • I’m not sure this particular location or the Victoria market would support the high- end business model that’s being proposed but I’m confident that the Jawls would not allow a public nuisance to emanate from one of their signature buildings.

  • While the patio represents a small portion of the total occupancy, it’s unclear from the information provided what the hours of operation are for this area, whether amplified music will be included, etc. Historically, during hours of operation, patios have often been a source of public nuisance noise to existing residential neighbours.

  • While the applicant’s consultant offered that the patron participation and extended hours are intended for occasional buyouts for events, there are no restrictions provided in the licensing that these events won’t become a regular occurrence along with the corresponding late night impacts on neighbours, the community and calls for police.

In addition to the comments provided by committee members, we have assessed the application in relation to our DRA LUC Liquor Policy.

In sum, we do not feel the applicant has made a convincing case in support of this application. The DRA LUC offers concerns based the unproven claims that this operation as would not negatively impact the community in its original conception so an expansion of the business model will not contribute to greater negative impacts. Likewise, we need to consider a possible change in ownership after the extended hours and patron participation have been granted, if the current owner sells the operation.

Sincerely, Wendy Bowkett Secretary, Land Use Committee Downtown Residents Association

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