Updated: My comments on the late night eatery controversy

September 26, 2008 at 8:08 am 7 comments

Victoria News
1 a.m. closing causes alarm

By Rebecca Aldous – Victoria News

Published: September 22, 2008 4:00 PM
Updated: September 25, 2008 8:44 AM

If Victoria’s proposed bylaw to mandate a 1 a.m. closing time for downtown takeout eateries and food carts passes, Randy Preston will be out of a job.

For close to seven years he’s operated a Mr. Tube Steak cart. By 11 p.m. the hotdogs are sizzling and ketchup is ready for hungry customs leaving the Red Jacket nightclub on View Street. There Preston stays until 3 a.m.

“The majority of my customers come after 2 o’clock,” he said.

Those customers are the target of the bylaw.

Victoria municipal staff suggest curtailing serving hours of outlets without public washrooms or indoor seating will help eliminate unruly drunks hanging around downtown after pubs and nightclubs close.

It’s a problem that is drawing police away from greater priorities, says Mayor Alan Lowe.

During a city council committee of the whole meeting Thursday, with the exception of councillors Sonya Chandler, council agreed to the the necessity of the bylaw.

Rob Woodland, the city’s director of legislative and regulatory services, estimated the bylaw would cost $150,000 to enforce, adding two new bylaw officers into the fold. But this is a cheaper and easier option than collecting evidence for the city’s nuisance bylaw to use against businesses.

Lowe said he would consider a blanket approach for all of Victoria to avoid people herding to outlying eateries. Coun. Charlayne Thorton-Joe noted retail spaces, such as 7-Eleven and Mac’s, which sell food should be included to ensure people don’t gather at those outlets.

While staff and council mull over the idea at city hall, Preston and other eatery owners are calling the bylaw bunk.

Mohammad Hajivalizadeh, owner of Second Slice Pizza, earns 40 per cent of his income during the late-night rush.

Hajivalizadeh along with other businesses on Douglas Street hired 24-hour security to help deal with problems. He would welcome the opportunity to sit down with police and the city to come up an alternative solution, such as the businesses have taken upon themselves.

There is no magic solution, says Downtown Residents’ Association chair and council candidate Robert Randall, but he too believes the city is heading in the wrong direction.

“We can’t just shut down the restaurants because that is not going to get rid of drunken people,” he said. “People need a place to chill out after a night at the bar. It would be a good thing to have more places that are open late, have more diversity, more choices.”

The situation is exacerbated with eateries located next to taxi stands and phone booths, he added.

Randall said it shows another area where a community court could help downtown Victoria. Fines could be handed out for misbehaving followed up with swift consequences, he said.

“Community court would be a huge part of getting rid of the real trouble makers so that the regular people who just want to go out and have a drink and have a good time can do that.

“We shouldn’t be punished just because of a tiny minority of people who go out to cause trouble; we have got to catch the trouble makers.”

Municipal staff are still drafting a bylaw. Currently, the proposed law would only affect vending carts and restaurants with serving areas of 300 square feet or less. The proposed hours of operation run from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. The targeted area has yet to be determined.

raldous@vicnews.com

———–

A small part of the interview I had with Aldous that was edited out of the final piece was how the new smoking bylaws affect the crowd situation on Wharf. With smokers banned from doorways they are more likely to be huddled together in larger crowds. Add this to the existing crowd situation caused by the food outlets, the narrow sidewalk, the payphone, the taxi stand and the numerous bars and restaurants, the situation is primed for conflict. I recently read of a study out of Wales that used a computer model to predict sidewalk fighting caused by jostling late-night bar crowds. I’d like to track down this study if I can find the time (volunteer, anyone?) but I don’t doubt it’s accuracy. Dispersing the late night crowd (by time and geography) will go a long way in alleviating problems.

I was also interviewed by the Victoria Business Examiner on this topic. I’ll post that when it’s published.

Entry filed under: media, social issues.

Quote of the day: What was the deal with the Guardian Angels?

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Davin  |  September 26, 2008 at 10:51 am

    This is ridiculous. Drunk people *especially* need food. Their only alternative after 1 AM will be to drink more if they want something in their belly. This is really, really short sighted and extreme.

    Personally I would like to be able to eat well past 1 AM without going to Denny’s. Is this going to effect the new Tim Hortons as well?

    Reply
  • 2. dvb  |  September 26, 2008 at 11:16 am

    This is going the wrong direction. Valid businesses are being punished.

    The bars should be able to stay open until much later, so that people trickle out, instead of flood the streets at 2am.

    Reply
  • 3. robertrandall  |  September 29, 2008 at 8:31 am

    It will only affect those eateries that don’t have seating or washrooms. Some places have eliminated seating in order to get around rules that require washrooms, due to vandalism and cleaning problems. Hiring qualified staff to work after midnight is hard enough without making them clean filthy washrooms all through their shift. But that is the price you pay when you open a business that relies on the late night bar crowd.

    I have talked about this issue often with Charlayne Thornton-Joe and we agree that more late night eating options are needed in more areas, but they must provide services for their customers, including the increased security necessary. But like I say, this is only one part of a much larger problem.

    Reply
  • 4. Davin Greenwell  |  October 5, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    More late night eateries with adequate facilities wouldn’t be a bad thing, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Where’s the incentive to do this for the businesses? I have a feeling it will simply drive these eateries away, which would be tragic. It takes a special breed to open a late night eatery and I doubt that there needs to be more barriers to entry for this.

    Perhaps if the city is not happy with the amount of washrooms downtown, they should make some new ones of their own with all the tax dollars they’ve been raking in.

    Reply
  • 5. Stef  |  October 7, 2008 at 9:53 am

    I agree with Mr. Greenwell. If the washrooms are the case, then the city should be reaching into their pockets to come up with a solution. Punishing the businesses that cater to the late night eating crowd is unjust and a silly solution. Rowdy drunk people are not the only ones who wish to eat after 1 am.

    Plus I feel these rowdy custonmers are going to be rowdy and drunk, wether they have food or not. They will most likely migrate to all night convenience stores like 711 and Max, were they will cause just as much mess and commotion.

    Reply
  • 6. Robert Randall  |  October 7, 2008 at 10:05 am

    The City of Victoria (last time I checked) is still committed to installing pop-up urinals but is trying to solve technical and warranty issues including how to integrate a complex piece of Dutch plumbing and mechanical engineering into our infrastructure.

    You’re right Stef. Just like homelessness, dispersal is not a solution.

    Reply
  • 7. mats mortland  |  November 9, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Having spent 6 years living in Montreal, I am able to paint contrasting picture of late night life in two very different cities.
    Montreal, where bars are open till 4 or 5 am, where late night eateries go until the same time and operate in abundance versus victoria where bars close at 2am, other drink and food establishments close at 1.
    The difference I have found, people who want to stay longer and party stay longer and party, those who can only make it till two for whatever reason leave at 2…the crowds disperse out over a longer time frame, they travel to different eateries afterward should they feel the need to eat, thinning out the lines and crowds that often agitate drunk people. Those who want to stay out late can stay out late and aren’t forced to hang out at one of 5 pizza shops open late for further entertainment.
    The conservative direction the city has gone as far as downtown entertainment concern is wrong and backwards.
    It only serves to increase that which is tries to prevent. it forces people out on the streets at their peak drunkeness, giving them few options, except crowds outdoors where agitation and conflict ensue. It is a rubbish attempt at a solution and I admire you for saying so. I also do not believe the excuse that it bothers patrons of downtown. If permits were more liberal and more shops open late, off main streets, off alleyways between commercial buildings, the crowds would be thinned out, the noise dispersed across several locations. The solution to this is entirely in the hands of the city and council and yet they fail to act. extra police aren’t needed, later hours and more late night eatery licenses are the answer. any attempt to stifle enterainment anymore will lead to increasing anti-social behaviour and assaults.

    Reply

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