Port cities are often more cosmopolitan that interior cities. This has been an age-old pattern, common where sailors and merchants from many lands came to sell exotic and unusual wares. People of various races as well as different customs would mingle in such a city and tolerance for difference was greater. It was true in the 8th century, the 15th century and is true today.
Vancouver, being a port city is more liberal in many things and culturally mixed for various reasons. You might almost expect it to be European in sentiment. By European I mean the easy laissez-faire of open patios, siestas, late night restaurants and drinking. This doesn’t give way to the degeneration of society but to an acceptance of a natural flow. The more taboo, bad or wrong something is deemed to be, in the eyes of the law, the more people will resist against it if it doesn’t feel right. And so it is with the puritan bylaws on selling alcohol and staying open late.
I had the chance, a few years back, to be in Montreal for a convention. We ended up going off to pubs and restaurants when the hotel bar closed up. From what I could tell the pubs and drinking establishments have a soft closing time that seems to be when the bartender wants to go home. We didn’t get to bed before 4 am any night and we were in pubs and restaurants. No one that I saw got overly rowdy but those of us who started our evening late or wanted to party a bit longer were able to do so. It was fun and nice to know that you didn’t have to be partying by 9 and out of the lounge by midnight.
Cinderella still continues to visit Vancouver, often having to be home by midnight, or the restaurants having to close up by this rather early time. This bylaw of early closings has been fought for years but for some reason City Hall wants to keep the draconian mindset. The only exception has been nightclubs in the downtown core on Granville Street. The problem is that many people don’t like nightclubs where fights among the 20-something set seem more common and therefore a search is de rigueur. Parking is hard to find and expensive (moreso because the City isn’t fulfilling its mandate of supplying affordable parking) and many people would rather stay in their neighborhoods where they can walk and avoid driving while drinking.
The City has had this unfair favoritism for about five years now. On top of the early closings and ways of tamping down culture with any place that has live music made to stop at midnight, the City Hall brain children have figured out a new bylaw. This one is the height of stupidity and outmoded thinking. The City, as of January (just in time for the Olympics, folks) wants all restaurants to have their alcohol sales equal their food sales. Fifty-fifty. So that means if you go in and have a $12-burger and want two ciders at $7 each, you’ll only be allowed one. Or if you go for dinner with a friend, say each spending $20 on food, you’ll only be allowed a $40 bottle of wine, not anything higher, nor more than one bottle.
Perhaps Vancouver’s eggheads feel that everyone is too thin and needs to eat more? Perhaps they want to promote beer or the cheapest swill only. That’s what we’re going to get. (Let’s not even mention Campbell’s monster, the HST, that will suck enough extra money and make going out a thing of the past.) Restaurants always make their money on the alcohol and without those profits we’ll see restaurants going the way of the dodo. Smart move, Mr. Mayor and all your cronies. Where have you put your brains?
The smart thing to do would be to let restaurants and clubs stay open longer across the city and allow them to serve alcohol. A fifty-fifty rule will kill the industry. Some cosmopolitan city we’ll have, where arts and culture are already suffering extreme cuts to the point of nonexistence. This will surely pull in tons of revenue that the city is somehow anticipating for the Olympics. Apologies, Madame et Monsieur, that wine is too expensive. Please try our special plonk instead. Oh and only two glasses each. Sorry, no dessert wine without dessert.
Now I’ve always said that if you don’t vote you can’t complain and I didn’t get a chance to vote in the last civic election so I guess I deserve what I get. However, I’m sure many of the restaurant owners did vote and they are extremely unhappy. My suggestion to the cogs that run Vancouver is to take a look at the great European cities, at Montreal and other places, and see what they do and how they handle restaurants and alcohol sales. Maybe the bible thumpers will get upset but then they don’t have to go to the restaurants. But we’re not going to have an all-out booze orgy unless they keep the drinking only on Granville Street where young guys congregate and drink too much. Spread it out and make it more like the local pubs of Great Britain and Ireland.