Plan to move liquor store from downtown Penticton meets opposition

Owner seeks approval to move Three Gables liquor store to site of Fairview Grocery

The owner of the Three Gables liquor store on Martin Street has applied to relocate the business out of the downtown area. The plan has created backers and critics alike.

The owner of the Three Gables liquor store on Martin Street has applied to relocate the business out of the downtown area. The plan has created backers and critics alike.

A plan to move Three Gables liquor store out of the city centre has generated concern among some competitors and received a mild endorsement from a downtown business group.

Mal Randhawa, a representative of Three Gables owner Harbans Randhawa, said the area has become over-saturated with liquor stores in recent years, and moving away from Martin Street will help “rebalance” the market.

He said Westminster, Clancy’s and Three Gables are all competing for the same local customers. A fourth store, Bubblees, was also in the mix until it burned down in February.

“Moving to Fairview (Road), I think it solves the problem of (market) saturation in the downtown,” Randhawa said.

Three Gables has applied to the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to move the store to the corner of Fairview Road and Calgary Avenue, home of Fairview Grocery, which would be levelled to make way for a sleek, new residential-commercial development.

City council in March granted preliminary approval to the necessary bylaw amendments to make it happen, but final consent has been withheld until a road reserve is registered on the land title.

Randhawa said the best-case scenario would see the new store open in “a little over a year,” and the old Three Gables building demolished later.

First, however, he’ll have to convince the LCLB to allow the move, which would apparently violate a policy that prevents private liquor stores from opening within one kilometre of each other. Some exceptions are permitted though under a narrow set of guidelines.

In this case, the new store would be about 0.97 kilometres “as the crow flies” from the Government Street Liquor Store, according to Randhawa. “If we drive it, it’s 1.1 kilometres.”

That’s still too close for comfort for Jeff Leonard, part-owner of the Government Street outlet, so about a month ago he started a petition that he’ll send to the LCLB and City Hall. So far, 400-plus people have signed on to oppose Three Gables’ move.

Leonard said the relocation will cut into his business, which he said has created jobs and contributed $18,000 to charity in the past two years. Further, he said Randhawa is missing out on an opportunity to capitalize on plans for downtown revitalization.

“If he’d just put money into his business, he’d get money back.” Leonard said.

Randhawa, however, doubts people in the Government Street area will venture down to Fairview Road, past the government-owned liquor store at Penticton Plaza, to buy booze at Three Gables.

Westminster Liquor Store manager Jim Larocque also has the petition at his shop. He’s worried that if the LCLB permits an exception to the one-kilometre rule, it will set a precedent that could hurt his business later.

“That’s supposed to be protecting every one of us in the industry,” Larocque said.

His other concern, as a resident of the Fairview Road area, is the undesirables the store might bring with it.

“I’m pretty sure no one wants the Gables in their neighbourhood.”

That’s partly why the downtown’s biggest booster actually supports the idea of winding down the Three Gables liquor store and the low-income housing above it to clear the way for redevelopment.

Before the portion of the Three Gables Hotel that fronted Main Street was destroyed by fire in 2000, “it was an active part of the community,” said Downtown Penticton Association executive director Barb Haynes.

“I think when that was all occurring, it was a different business than it currently is,” she said. “I would think that, again, from their perspective, (the current clientele) is probably not necessarily the clientele they’re looking for either. So with those things in mind, it probably makes good sense for them to move.”

Haynes has not discussed the matter with Randhawa, but suggested the site would do best as a redeveloped indoor market with a residential component above.

An LCLB spokesperson declined comment on Three Gables’ relocation application, citing privacy legislation.