The Bong Warehouse owner Ryan Place leans on his mascot inside his store on Esquimalt Road. Some residents have complained that the mascot doesn’t represent a positive image for the community.

The Bong Warehouse owner Ryan Place leans on his mascot inside his store on Esquimalt Road. Some residents have complained that the mascot doesn’t represent a positive image for the community.

Bong mascot ruffles feathers in Esquimalt

Councillor crafts bylaw targeting business mascots, not sports teams’

A budding business owner’s marketing ploy is prompting one Esquimalt councillor to attempt to snuff out the scheme.

A costumed mascot designed to look like a bong – a filtration device used by smokers of everything from tobacco to marijuana – has been periodically seen strolling near the intersection of Esquimalt and Admirals roads to promote The Bong Warehouse, which opened in December.

Owner Ryan Place said he’s being unfairly targeted by a proposed bylaw from Coun. Tim Morrison, one that would require businesses to get a permit from the township to use costumed mascots in public places.

“I’ve seen mascots since I was a little boy for a whole variety of businesses,” Place said, adding he’s not attracting unsavoury people to the neighbourhood.

“There were problems in Esquimalt long before we came around. On sunny days, (the mascot) sits on the corner of the road and smiles. People like to get their picture taken with him.”

Morrison said he has received dozens of complaints from both businesses and residents since the mascot began making appearances. People in Esquimalt are in favour of a more family-friendly image for the township, he added.

“If this was downtown Vancouver or Toronto, this kind of thing wouldn’t be such a big deal,” Morrison said. “But when you’re a small community like Esquimalt, it gets magnified and has the danger of becoming almost a symbol.”

The proposed bylaw includes exemptions for mascot use by non-profit organizations and at various community events. Businesses using mascots without permits could be fined between $250 to $1,000 for the infraction, the proposal states. But Morrison stresses bylaw infractions are complaint-driven, so most businesses wouldn’t be affected.

“It’s your constitutional right to protest marijuana usage … (but) that’s not what we’re talking about,” he said. “We’re talking about a business person trying to market their business in a public space that infringes on other businesses.”

Place has been cautioned in the past for violating advertising bylaws, including parking a cube van with flashing lights in front of his shop and installing oversized signage, Morrison said.

Council will debate Morrison’s motion at its April 22 meeting at 7 p.m., and Place said he plans to attend.

dpalmer@vicnews.com