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Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre, Beacon Brewing tap province for expanded service

Public consultation about changes to happen before council offers its support
Sidney’s council meeting as committee-of-the-whole has started the process of gathering public input for plans by Beacon Brewing to expand liquor service. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney residents living near the Mary Winspear Centre and a nano-brewery in the downtown core will get a chance to comment on plans for expanded liquor service at those locations.

Council meeting as committee-of-the-whole approved a plan that includes a special public participation period, to follow notifications to property owners within 100 metres of the sites, and public advertisements.

While only the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch can approve or deny applications, municipalities can shape them by signalling support or opposition after gathering the views of the public.

The Winspear Centre is seeking to permanently expand its liquor service areas. A temporary expanded service area was approved in 2020 that allowed the centre to serve the same number of patrons and comply with provincial health guidelines regarding physical distancing.

RELATED: Sidney serves up signal of support for downtown nanobrewery

Staff said this permanent expansion would allow the centre to provide additional service areas throughout the venue, adding revenue streams during live performances, conferences, trade and craft shows and other events. The current license encompasses the Bodine Family Hall, the main lobby and reception gallery, the Charlie White Theatre lobby and three smaller meeting rooms. Expanded service areas would include the Charlie White Theatre; outdoor space off the theatre lobby, an outdoor courtyard adjacent to Bodine Hall and another meeting room.

Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the resiliency of the centre during the pandemic has impressed council.

“The temporary license granted by the province was of benefit to the centre and no complaints,” he said. “I look forward to hearing the public’s comments on this.”

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While Coun. Scott Garnett, who is council’s liaison on the Memorial Park Society overseeing the centre, joined his colleagues in supporting the next step in the process, he also raised two points of concern.

The first was around the notification requirement, given that only a handful of properties near the centre would receive direct notice of the application.

Garnett also raised the potential for increased noise. From his previous residence off Canora Road near the B.C. Aviation Museum, he could quite easily hear activity at the Winspear Centre when the doors opened. “I could hear conversations and the music quite well, actually. There will be an impact on neighbours further away than you think. The sound travels quite well.”

Staff said the centre’s location next to Highway 17 and well away from residential areas “significantly reduces” the potential for noise concerns resulting from patrons consuming liquor in the proposed exterior areas.

Councillors also agreed to gather the view of residents on a request by Beacon Brewing on Third Street to amend their hours to 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The current license allows operations from 11:30 a.m to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and a closing time of 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

According to town staff, the brewery’s owners are looking for more flexibility for hosting events and for the upcoming busy summer season.

Garnett pointed out the requested hours are similar to those council supported for Small Gods Brewery up the street. “And I have no concerns, because this is actually inside a building, whereas I had concerns before because of the outside patio,” he said.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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