Penticton council endorses expanded plan for wine bar

Neighbours voice concern over proposed operating hours for Main Street wine bar

The Elbow Room wine bar has received approval from Penticton council in their quest for approval from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. Again.

However, “the tiny little lounge that holds 33 people,” as proponent Athena Vassilaki-Demosten called it in October 2010 during a previous visit to council, has now been expanded to include three storefronts on the 400 block of Main Street, with seating for 89 inside and a proposed outdoor patio to hold 22 more, as well as being open for longer hours.

Neighbours of the planned location at 410 to 412 Main St. have some concerns, especially concerning the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours of operation proposed for the Elbow Room, which is now described as a wine bar promoting the local wine industry and offering meals as well as a full range of alcoholic beverages.

Sandra Vogel-Hockley, who recently opened a new yarn store, The Knotty Knitter, in an adjacent storefront, said she is in favour of seeing the property next door improved, but lists the hours of operation as her top concern, along with noise and smoke filtering into her shop.

“If I could imagine a worst-case scenario for my new, growing business, establishing an early bird wine bar next door would be it,” said Vogel-Hockley.

“I could not locate another wine bar in B.C. that opens in the morning, nor stays open until 2 a.m. Typically, wine bars appear to open in the late afternoon and close before midnight. Perhaps that’s because both early morning and late night openings tend to attract a different clientele than what a high-end wine bar caters to.”

The Downtown Penticton Association has been advocating for some time for an upscale wine room/wine bar in the downtown area that would highlight the local wine industry, according to the association’s executive director Barb Haynes.

“We have given our support to the applicant but are echoing as well the concerns that some of the businesses have about the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. opening,” said Haynes. “That would be the one issue that we are hearing back from our members more loudly than anything else.”

Nick Vassilakakis explained to council that they had no intention of selling wine at 9 a.m., but were simply requesting the early hours of operation specified in LCLB regulations for a liquor primary licence.

“In our application, it says we are going to open at 11 a.m. We never stated we were going to open at 9 a.m.,” said Vassilakakis. who remained firm that they need to be able to continue selling alcohol until the 2 a.m. limit. “Those three extra hours … make or break you. Those additional hours are a great help for any business.”

“I wish we could hear a little bit of noise down at the 400 and 500 block, because it is so dead,” said Vassilaki-Demosten. “If you look down Main Street after 7 p.m., you don’t see many cars, you don’t see people walking down Main.”

“I really like wine bars, I think they are excellent. It is something that Penticton has needed for a long time,” said Coun. Helen Konanz.

“It is something that Penticton is missing on Main Street. We don’t want to be shooting that cannon through Main Street anymore, and this is the type of thing that needs to change.”

Staff also had concerns with the extended hours, and recommended that council approve the application, but limit the hours of liquor sales to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, council went with a compromise position, voting to support the application with 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. hours.

Coun. John Vassilaki, brother of both Vassilakakis and Vassilaki-Demosten, recused himself from the deliberations.