Public to weigh in on new liquor store

NANAIMO – Departure Bay residents concerned over proposed liquor store across from beach.

Residents will soon have a chance to weigh in on a proposed liquor store in Departure Bay.

Nanaimo city officials have agreed to put a pitch for a village liquor store in Departure Bay to public hearing, during an open meeting Monday. They also agreed to collect a $10,000 community contribution and draft a protocol agreement for the business and neighbours to discuss any potential problems that may bubble up.

The decisions stem from a rezoning application made by Nanaimo businessman John Wicks, who wants to lease  space for a liquor store across from Departure Bay beach at the 24-hour 7-Eleven. According to Wicks, Nanaimo’s north end is stocked with too many liquor stores and he isn’t happy with his own Black Bear outlet on Doumont Road, prompting his desire to shift to a higher-density area to the south.  But some residents are against the idea.

The Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association handed out 240 surveys about the liquor store earlier this year, with 54 per cent of respondents – or 26 people – opposing the store and 36 per cent in support. Neighbourhood association representative Jennifer Davidson called for Nanaimo politicians to take into account those opposed to the business and create a good-neighbour agreement to address concerns. The issues people are concerned about are not conjured up, Davidson said, pointing out there’s been a history of problems at the beach like underage drinking.

Coun. Fred Pattje, a resident of Departure Bay, said a “site specific solution” like a protocol agreement for communication could alleviate worries of most people. A good-neighbour agreement is for liquor establishments where people sit and drink, “so I agree with staff that it’s not good to force all liquor outlets to have a good-neighbour agreement but I think this one at Departure Bay is slightly different,” he said of past troubles.

Nanaimo city council was unanimous on the protocol and agreed to pass the first and second readings to allow the business to go to public hearing.