Liquor outside Tidemark raises concerns

The Tidemark Theatre’s application to allow guests to drink alcohol outside in the courtyard is raising concerns

The Tidemark Theatre’s application to allow guests to drink alcohol outside in the courtyard is raising concerns over the community’s most vulnerable.

Gord Taylor, captain of the Salvation Army Community Crest Church, has worked for the Salvation Army since 1988. In 25 years he’s seen countless numbers of people who struggle with substance abuse.

“I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people whose lives have basically been destroyed by alcohol,” Taylor said.

“So anything I guess that promotes its use in a public area, especially in a place where young families could be passing by, I think is a bad idea.”

The Tidemark is applying to the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to expand its liquor licence to allow people to drink in the outdoor courtyard area between the front doors of the theatre and part of the sidewalk, but not including the main courtyard between the Tidemark and the library.

Bryon Armstrong, who has operated a business close to the Tidemark for more than two decades, wrote a letter to city council opposing the Tidemark’s application.

“I would definitely be opposed to allow an outdoor courtyard where there is alcohol served,” Armstrong wrote. “This would not be in the best interest of the downtown businesses.”

City council has a different view.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting Coun. Ryan Mennie said nearby businesses can take advantage of the people congregating downtown.

Coun. Mary Storry agreed with the RCMP’s take on the Tidemark’s proposal that having more “eyes on the street” will deter loitering and other undesirable activity, which will benefit downtown businesses.

Kim Emsley-Leik, Tidemark managing director, said expanding the theatre’s liquor licence to include an outdoor area will help contribute to the city’s goal of revitalizing downtown.

“We think an outdoor patio would cultivate the atmosphere downtown and complement events across the street at Spirit Square,” Emsley-Leik said. “I think if the city is serious about revitalizing downtown we need to think food, drink, and entertainment – the things that bring people together.”

The Tidemark is also applying to expand its liquor licence to allow alcohol consumption in the auditorium, on the stage for smaller, more intimate events, backstage, and in the green room. Currently, alcohol is only allowed to be consumed in the lobby which can only hold up to 150 people.

Emsley-Leik said part of the reason for the changes is to increase the Tidemark’s ability to bring in more shows and the resulting economic spin offs.

“What I’ve noticed is the shows that sell tickets are the ones with name recognition,” Emsley-Leik said. “But name recognition artists charge more for their services.

“There’s not a huge differential between artist fees and ticket prices so where we can possibly offset the cost of the show is the concession. Concession sales are key to offsetting the cost of shows.”

But Coun. Larry Samson wasn’t convinced that expanding the liquor zones was the best route to take.

“My concern is the proximity to the library, the Visitor Info Centre and Spirit Square and (nearby) families,” Samson said.

“My understanding is the liquor licence starts at 11 a.m. everyday. Does council have the authority to restrict the liquor licence?”

Kevin Brooks, the city’s senior planner, said council could make recommendations to the province to restrict the licence.

Emsley-Leik tried to put Samson’s mind at ease.

“The Tidemark has a long history of responsible serving, a long history of training,” she said.

“This is just adding to the downtown atmosphere and we look forward to continuing to serve responsibly.”

Council in the end voted in favour of recommending the Tidemark’s liquor licence amendment application to the province.