Saanich chips from the rough

Perhaps it’s human nature to want what you can’t have, or can’t afford.

Perhaps it’s human nature to want what you can’t have, or can’t afford.

Last Wednesday, scores of people interested in the fate of the vacant restaurant at the Cedar Hill golf course made their wishes known on sticky notes pasted to the wall.

The resounding majority called for a renewed restaurant, which is exactly the opposite of what Saanich council wants to do.

Some residents call the restaurant an integral part of the social life for that area of the municipality. For council and district budget managers, it’s a financial black hole.

Last year the municipally owned Cedar Hill golf course hit well over par and wracked up a $820,000 deficit. Of that, $520,000 was from food services. (Saanich clawed back $100,000 after closing the restaurant.)

Should the District of Saanich be in the restaurant business? No, but it has trapped itself. It can’t reopen full food services without employing unionized labour, which a private operator is unlikely to take on.

Opening the restaurant probably seemed like a good idea back in 1997, when the golf course operated in the black. In the 1990s and 2000s, its links averaged 71,000 rounds per year. In 2011 that dropped to 42,000 rounds, a 40 per cent drop. The course has been in the red since 2007 and is paying off an expensive irrigation system.

Until the golf course can attract more golfers, Saanich council is right to be reluctant to reopen a full-service restaurant on the backs of all district taxpayers.

At most, it could open perhaps as a cafeteria-style operation under privatized management, if a compelling business case can be made.

Saanich should be proud to own a magnificent piece of greenspace that is Cedar Hill golf course, and golfers are lucky to have a course that has the lowest green fees for 18 holes in Greater Victoria.

But people who love Cedar Hill need to be less concerned about food services, and more concerned that it survives as a public facility.