Arena liquor violation shuts down beer garden

Nanaimo lacrosse teams can’t sell booze at games.

Sports fans at the Nanaimo Ice Centre won’t be able to have a beer and watch the game, not for a couple of weeks, anyway.

The City of Nanaimo had its liquor licence at the twin arena suspended this month following a decision by the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

The violation occurred back in March at a recreational hockey tournament at the NIC, when players were drinking beer outside of beer-garden boundaries.

“The infractions were pretty real so we accept the enforcement …” said Darcie Osborne, the city’s arenas manager. “It’s alcohol in a public place, really, and when people apply to have a licence there’s conditions which they agree to, so obviously that would be one of them.”

The city had to pay a $1,000 fine and the suspension applies to the next four events, which happen to be three junior B lacrosse games and one senior B lacrosse game.

The fact that lacrosse teams are negatively affected because of something that happened during hockey season has caused some hard feelings.

“I still don’t understand why we have to lose our licence when we’ve done nothing wrong,” said Irene Morrison, manager of the junior B Nanaimo Timbermen. “I honestly don’t care about the beer garden; I care about the fact that we’re being used as a scapegoat for hockey.”

She said she went shopping Tuesday morning and bought candy bars and pop to sell at Wednesday’s home game at the NIC.

“We have to do something to raise money,” she said. “It’s not cheap running this team.”

Shawn Swanson, general manager of the senior B Nanaimo DBL Timbermen, said going without a beer garden for a game impacts his team financially.

“Now we lose a third of what we’re going to make on our gate,” he said.

Swanson said he feels bad for the junior B T-men, who also pay a price “over another team’s doing” but said he didn’t think the infraction was a big deal to begin with.

“It’s stuff that’s been going on as long as arenas have been around,” he said. “Someone’s got their panties tied in a knot over a minor, minor thing.”

Osborne said the city didn’t have a choice with the timing of the liquor licence suspension.

“We’re not trying to punish one particular user group because of another’s actions…” she said. “We were very clear to the inspector that it was a difficult one for us because it did occur during ice season.”

Osborne said this the first time the arena has had its liquor licence suspended.

“We don’t receive infractions and fines and not take them seriously,” she said. “We’re currently in the process of looking at our operations and how we’re going to deal with alcohol in the building in the future.”