The debate over whether a proposed 7-Eleven on Nicol Street should stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not a new one in Nanaimo.
In 2000, the council of the day brought forward a motion to ban 24-hour convenience stores in most parts of the city.
That motion was defeated, but it was sparked by a situation similar to that being discussed today.
Earlier that year, 7-Eleven purchased the Save Right convenient store at the Departure Bay Beach location and asked in its business permit to have 24/7 business hours.
Prior to the early 1980s, most 7-Eleven franchises were open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., unprecedented hours at the time. After that, the business model changed to 24-hour operations.
In 2000, the city was trying to control behavioural problems along the beach, and council and the local community association felt it was in the community’s best interest to reduce overnight hours.
As a result, the store is closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., as are other convenient stores/gas stations along Departure Bay Road and Hammond Bay Road, including Mac’s Milk at Norwell Drive.
“In trying to establish the level of behaviour we were trying to achieve in the beach area, 7-Eleven seemed to want to go against that,” said Coun. Bill Holdom, who was also on council in 2000. “It was mixed in with other issues, it wasn’t specifically 7-Eleven. If any convenience store had come in and said the same thing, I think we would have responded the same way.”
Today, the South End Community Association has worked to reduce drug and sex trade activity in the Nicol and Milton street area, but feels those activities would be perpetuated by a 24-hour store.
Holdom said most businesses allowed to stay open 24/7 include essential services like gas stations and drug stores that are located in commercial, not residential areas.
“Community values trump business models,” he said. “I don’t know that communities have to give in to these preconceived ideas on how to operate businesses.”
Holdom added that the Nicol Street situation is a tricky one, as the community is trying to attract business development along that corridor, but not at any price.
“It’s a delicate balance,” he said.