Bong shops, money lenders targeted by Esquimalt

Esquimalt council proposes reduction in restrictive zone, but tighter regulations for drug paraphernalia shops

A proposed three-kilometre ‘no-go’ zone around schools that would have effectively banned businesses selling drug paraphernalia in Esquimalt has been reduced.

The B.C. Community Charter prevents the outright ban or prohibition of any legitimate business, but allows for restrictions and tighter regulation on such businesses. With that in mind, Esquimalt council on Monday asked staff to rewrite bylaws to create a 500-metre safe zone, but increase business licence fees in line with liquor-licensed establishments, and restrict opening hours and public advertising or marketing efforts of such firms.

Coun. Tim Morrison said the extra licensing fee revenue could be directed toward community grants that support positive, healthy living initiatives for youth and children.

The Bong Warehouse, operating in Esquimalt’s village centre, has been in the centre of efforts to restrict certain types of business in the township. The proposed changes would, among other things, limit its opening times to daytime hours from its current 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. opening.

A separate category for higher licence fees and restricted hours would apply to money lending stores. A majority of respondents to a resident questionnaire undertaken by the municipality supported tightening regulatory measures against both types of businesses.

“The plan is to have (any changes) come back in November in time to have it communicated to businesses,” Morrison said. “We also allowed for a six-month grace period so no one business is put in an awkward position financially.”

Monday also saw a discussion on mascot use, prompted by Bong Warehouse’s use of a giant bong costume for streetside promotion. Council proposes that exceptions be made for special events, community celebrations, charitable sporting events and community protests.

ddescoteau@vicnews.com