Yes, The Killers Killed the Liquor at Thunderbird Arena

Posted by: | February 1, 2010 | Comments Off on Yes, The Killers Killed the Liquor at Thunderbird Arena

Avid readers of this blog may recall a post from last summer entitled: “Did The Killers Kill the Liquor at Thunderbird Arena?”

The original post should be read in its entirety, but if you’re too lazy the synopsis is that in July 2009, UBC Athletics put an application forward to amend the liquor licence at T-Bird Arena. (Apologies to Doug Mitchell; T-Bird Arena is much simpler to write than DMTWSC.) At the time, campus RCMP had serious objections to the proposal based on a series of major infractions at previous licenced (and non-licenced) events at the arena and things were not looking good for Athletics.

In the fall, the Liquor Control and Licencing Board (LCLB) issued their decision on Athletics’s application and it didn’t work out very well. In short: Yes, the Killers killed the liquor at Thunderbird Arena.

Ultimately, the licence modification was granted. However, it wasn’t without some fairly major strings attached.

It is very unusual for an establishment to have such serious and repeated issues with liquor at events over a very short time frame. It is also very rare for local government and enforcement authorities to have such concerns with liquor management. I take these issues seriously…

-Cheryl Caldwell, LCLB

As a result of the negative feedback received from public consultation about the licence application, UBC Athletics must develop a new set of event management practices to avoid any repeats of the incidents that happened last summer. More damaging, however, is the fact that they are not allowed to use the licence for concerts.

UBC Athletics downplays the importance of this restriction; they are not directly invested in holding licenced concerts. However, they are quite invested in earning revenue from renting out the arena as a concert venue, and having a valid liquor licence seems like it would be a pre-requisite for most concert promoters. Concerts, and the fulfilment of the contract with VANOC, seem to be the only reasons that would make pursuing these changes worthwhile. Apparently the Olympics has made other arrangements; presumably the province was quite happy to pull strings in that case. Given the restriction on concerts, the results of the licence modification have much lower utility.

In terms of the changes that did go through, hours were extended by two hours in the morning to start at 9 am Mon-Sat. A patio was added. Capacity was increased 22-fold (from 385 to 8,772). Previously it was licenced as a recreational centre and the licence was used for the Thunderbar, which was a permanent bar; the new licence has it classified as a stadium, with liquor service only permitted in the time-frame around events.

Yes, this means that the Thunderbar is not being ressurrected anytime soon. Sorry, rec hockey players. The fraternities across the street also missed out: another part of the licence application was to allow for off-sales from the arena but this was denied.

While still accepting the validity of the consultation process, the LCLB expressed some concern over incomplete information being provided in parts of the consultation. This was flagged particularly because the application was for the modification of an existing licence, rather than for an entirely new licence and the consultation for the latter is more involved than for the former. However, given the scope of the proposed changes (huge capacity increase, fundamental change in the licence classification) it’s noted that the the previous licence holds little relation to the one being proposed and is basically a new licence application.

The LCLB concludes that once the new event management plan is developed, Athletics can apply again for another modification to allow them to hold licenced concerts. They would have to do the consultation process all over again, and can’t apply again until May 2010. No word on whether or not this will be done at that time. All in all, given that the new licence can be used essentially only for sporting events, it doesn’t put Athletics in any better position than they were in before this process began.

Finally, it must be noted that the LCLB is not always a rational creature, such as last summer when it was discovered that their regulations made it illegal to sell a true pint of beer. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise then to learn that the letter from the LCLB about T-Bird Arena does have some confusing elements.

It all revolves around the “no concerts” prohibition. T-Bird Arena is allowed to hold “live events” under their licence.

…it is important to note that liquor service at an event-driven licence is restricted to live events only. An event is a “live event” only if the primary presentation occurs through individuals who are physically presenting or performing the event, such as a sporting event or public rally led by a person on stage… Liquor Licensing Policy 7.7 provides more information about live events.

-Cheryl Caldwell, LCLB

When you look up “live events” for event-driven licence, it helpfully tells you this:

Common types of live events are presentations by an individual performer, a band… Live events which are more typically presented at a stadium include sporting events, various types of live band… (emphasis added)

-Liquor Licencing Policy 7.7

The definition of live events includes concerts. But it’s never made clear what a “concert” is, exactly. It’s never defined either in the liquor policy or in the letter. It could get tricky. What if a band is performing only for 15 min as part of a larger ceremony – is that a concert? This is still awaiting clarification.

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