Booze bid gets early OK despite proximity to school

Richmond city council is paving the way for a new liquor store in an East Cambie shopping centre, even though its location would violate two city policies.

In a 7-1 vote Monday, council gave early approval to Pacific Land Group's bid to open a retail liquor store in Cambie Plaza Shopping Centre at No. 5 and Cambie roads. But Coun. Chak Au said the store would be located within 500 metres of an elementary school and park—contravening policy.

"I believe that if we need to make an exception, we need to have a very strong case. In this case, I don't see the community support is strong or overwhelming," said Au. "I believe that very often council has been accused for making exceptions too easily."

A public hearing is now set for January. If approved, the applicant would move a liquor store licence to 185-11700 Cambie Rd. from the Four Points Vancouver Airport Hotel at 8368 Alexandra Rd., which operates a small liquor store in its lobby.

The new location would be within 150 metres of King George Park and within 250 metres of Mitchell Elementary School. City staff contend the store is effectively separated from the park and school by No. 5 Road.

In a report to council, planner Sara Badyal noted the operator of the proposed store, the Arbuthnot Group, operates "several liquor-related businesses in a number of municipalities, has been in business since 1975, and is sensitive to the need for safety."

"The applicant advises that staff members are strictly forbidden to make sales to intoxicated persons or to minors, and that the operator has only received one infraction notice from the (B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch) throughout its years in business."

A required neighbourhood survey found 48 per cent of 135 residents opposed the application, 42 per cent supported it and 10 per cent were neutral.

On-site polling at the shopping centre garnered much more favourable numbers for the applicant—an 80 per cent support rate—but the proposal also generated a 317-signature petition against it.

Coun. Bill McNulty, chair of council's planning committee, said the applicant has experience in running successful retail outlets and the store could benefit the area.

"I believe that this particular establishment will be an amenity which will be positive to those who partake in this particular institution, but be of no detriment to the community," he said. "As a matter of fact it might stimulate some other retail business in that area."

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