[Updated] Bar owners blast council over Granville Street pilot project

Experiment will start July 1 and ban admission to clubs after 2 a.m.

The Granville Entertainment District has been a centre for pubs, restaurants and other nightlife for decades | Tourism Vancouver

Vancouver city council agreed to a staff proposal to launch a pilot project to ban entry to nightclubs and bars in the Granville Entertainment District after 2 a.m., starting July 1.

The vote came after debate that evoked shock and outrage from bar owners and their advocates at a day-long city council meeting. 

Much of their objection was that the business owners were given only a few weeks’ notice.

One amendment to the staff proposal was that council would get an update on the pilot project's impact in six months. Staff had initially proposed that the pilot project be for a full year.

Granville Street bars will still be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. but will be prohibited from admitting new customers after 2 a.m.

Opposition to the idea came from more than Granville Street business owners.

Steve Bauer, a prinicipal at the Pumpjack and the Junction Pub in the nearby Davie Village neighbourhood, was concerned that his district would become overrun with people from the Granville Street area who still wanted to party but were barred from entering any drinking establishments there.

“Problems will be pushed off to other areas,” Bauer said, indicating that Yaletown establishments could also be affected.

Bar owners on the Granville Strip and elsewhere also echoed the sentiment that the proposal for the pilot project had come out of nowhere because city staff failed to mention the idea in advance to bar owners or the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA).

“The first time we saw [the proposal] was in the report,” said DVBIA CEO Charles Gauthier. “There was no consultation.”

He suggested that council shelve the idea and strike a working group to discuss the idea with stakeholders. Council did establish a working group that will monitor the pilot project and discuss other aspects of the complex liquor policy file.

(Image: The vote on the pilot project to ban entry to Granville Entertainment District pubs and clubs after 2 a.m. | City of Vancouver live stream)

At the beginning of the marathon council meeting that heard presentations on a raft of policy issues under the city’s liquor policy review, Vancouver Coastal Health chief medical health officer Patricia Daley reported statistics showing that hospital admissions that stemmed from alcohol-related causes dropped off significantly after 3 a.m.

She suggested that this was linked with the current closing time for all bars, which prompts a flood of people onto the streets all at once.

Vancouver Police Department superintendent Michelle Davey agreed with Daley and said that restricting entry to bars after 2 a.m. would help disperse the crowds slightly earlier and likely reduce some of the street hooliganism and fighting.

Staff looked to Sydney, Australia, in suggesting the pilot project. That city changed regulations to limit entry one hour before closing time, but then changed regulations again to prohibit entry a mere 30 minutes before closing time.

Councillor Heather Deal, who also happened to be chairing the meeting, questioned why staff did not recommend that entrance also be banned 30 minutes before closing time and when it seemed like there was no satisfactory answer, said she did not want to take up excess time to explore that issue.

“The experts that we do rely on for advice, the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Coastal Health, both seem to think that this is a good idea and I think the best way to resolve my skepticism and their expert advice is to move forward with the pilot," said councillor Andrea Reimer.

"I think I would feel a lot more worried about it if it was the full year but I very much appreciate the opportunity to check in on it at six months and, presumably earlier, if it is Armageddon."

Reimer, along with councillors Kerry Jang, Heather Deal, Tim Stevenson, Geoff Meggs, Raymond Louie and Mayor Gregor Robertson voted for the initiative. Councillors George Affleck, Adriane Carr and Melissa De Genova opposed the pilot project.