Businesses within South End Neighbourhood Plan Area can stay open 24/7 if they choose after city council defeated a motion that would require them to close from 2-6 a.m.
The proposed amendment to the business licence bylaw was sparked by south end residents concerned a 7-Eleven convenience store slated for an empty lot at Nicol and Milton streets would attract unwanted activity during the early morning hours. Residents recalled a similar 24/7 convenience store at the same location several years ago that attracted drug and sex trade activity, causing them concern that the current proposal would create problems again.
Couns. Bill Bestwick, Diana Johnstone, Merv Unger, Jim Kipp and Mayor John Ruttan were opposed to the restrictions, defeating the motion 5-2, but warned that any unwanted activity will be dealt with quickly.
"I am very sympathetic to the needs of the community and I can assure 7-Eleven that I will be first in line to raise hell if they let this thing get out of hand," said Mayor John Ruttan.
Ken Riddell, who owns the property, said every effort will be made to eliminate criminal activity including improving lighting on all sides of the building, installing cameras, having a permanent tenant living above the store, and by not providing a public phone or seating. He also said restricting the hours would cause him to reconsider going ahead with the development.
Unger said he is willing to give the project a chance.
"I can't support [restricted hours] because it's discriminatory toward a particular part of the city, especially when a business right on the border will be allowed to stay open, while a similar business just a few blocks will be required to close," he said. "This would be finding somebody guilty without a trial."
Couns. Fred Pattje and Bill Holdom supported the restricted hours.
"The public good trumps anything private in my books," said Pattje.
Holdom said a 7-Eleven in his neighbourhood has restricted hours and "it has worked very well."
The South End Neighbourhood Plan Area includes Shaw Lane at Hecate Street to the north, and along the E&N Railway to Ninth Street.
A staff report indicates the city is unaware of any businesses in that area currently operating 24/7.