Warfield council is grappling with the introduction of a second independent liquor store in the village, an area they have no jurisdiction over.
Warren Hamm, former owner of the Rock Cut Pub in Rossland, has received pre-approval on a liquor license to run a cold beer and wine store out of the former Warfield Food Mart.
Beyond other concerns, the village fears residents will favour the new store because of its convenient location and forget about the existing Tunnel Beer Wine and Liquor Store, which is in the same building as Benedicts Steakhouse and the Tunnel Pub in Annable.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like a level playing field to move in without having any consultations with citizens involved,” said Warfield Mayor Jim Nelson at Wednesday night’s council meeting.
But the storefront fits specific requirements, explained liquor inspector Jim Booth, who attended the meeting to provide further information to council and concerned business owners.
The B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch doesn’t require an independent business owner to canvass the neighbourhood for feedback because it doesn’t consider a retail store to have potential pubic safety risks like a pub would.
The former food mart is already zoned commercial for the sale of liquor and without a zoning application, the village is not required to hold a public meeting.
“We can’t not give a business license to a valid business unless it’s detrimental to the community or we could be accused of discrimination,” explained village administrator Vince Morelli.
Hamm is currently renovating the store up to standards and once Booth checks the space, the store should be open early this summer.
“I just find it kind of odd that you don’t have any kind of say with what goes on in the village,” said Roy Benedict, owner of the Tunnel Beer Wine and Liquor Store and neighbouring restaurant and pub.
Benedict, whose restaurant has been open for 30 years and cold beer and wine for the past four, said it’s been hard enough to stay afloat and now is concerned competition in the small village will have an impact on sales.
The village feels for the long-time business owner but said it’s out of their hands, calling the process “rubber stamped.”
“I don’t like it myself, personally,” said village councillor John Crozier. “I don’t like it in front of a school bus stop and I worry about pedestrian safety.”
The former police officer is frustrated that local government has no voice in the matter.
“Like I said, I’ve got negative vibes and I’m just sounding off because I don’t like what’s going on,” he said.
Hamm reassured council that his new store, which will feature specialty wines, will be run tightly, pointing to his past record of “zero tolerance” as the owner of the Rock Cut.
“In my 12 years that I was there, I only had to physically move 11 people, there were no fights and the police never had to be called,” he said.