Diners can’t ‘participate’ for now

Victoria council to take second look at 'Patron participation' rules

When Victoria city council endorsed a new “patron participation” licence for the Fort Street Cafe in January, a lingering question remained.

Would it “open the flood gates” for more requests from establishments?

It seems the answer could be yes. The newly elected council reviewed its third request Feb. 16 at its governance and priorities committee meeting.

Temple Events and Catering at 525 Fort St. seeks a change to its food-primary licence that would allow it to host weddings, workshops, fundraisers, staff parties and the like. It’s filling a need, argued applicant Scott Kirkwood. “Currently the options for booking a party or event … in downtown Victoria are extremely limited,” he wrote.

But letting patrons out of their seats proved surprisingly controversial.

On one hand, the city is actively looking to encourage more downtown activity options not centered around drinking, said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe. On the other hand, there’s a worry the restaurant will start acting as a bar, without having to pay the higher liquor-primary licence or participate in Bar Watch, she added.

While not concerned by the private-booking business model presented by Temple, council noted any changes to the licence could be sold to new owners with a different intent.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon, who is “in the bar business” brought up other concerns.

A patron participation licence would bring the late-night bar crowd together with the underage crowd, who are permitted in restaurants. Temple has a licence to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.

As the mother of a 15-year-old, Gudgeon said, “it could definitly be a slippery slope.”

Council postponed any decision until March 1.