If all goes to plan the Legion could be getting the thumbs up from the Province to sell alcohol to non-members.
On Aug. 29 the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #63 submitted an application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) asking to amend their current Liquor Primary Club License to a Liquor Primary License.
At its Nov. 12 meeting council voted unanimously to put their support behind that letter and recommend to the LCRB the Legion’s application to transition to a Liquor Primary Licence be approved.
Council also resolved to endorse a resolution highlighting their reasons for support.
In a letter to Smithers Town Council, Legion president Steve Purnell said the decision to apply for the amendment comes down to membership numbers.
“As a service group, we are struggling with membership, as are most service groups,” wrote Purnell. “We believe this is the right move for us and, hopefully, will improve membership and community attendance.”
The Legion is not proposing a change to their regular hours in the application.
Instead, the change would allow them to serve alcohol to non-members without them being there as a guest of a member.
It would also change rules surrounding how the Legion can advertise.
“This change would allow us to operate as any other establishment, without the need for a sign-in book, or the need to do all advertising with, ‘Members and Guests Welcome’.”
In a report to the Town the Smithers, the RCMP detachment noted they didn’t see any issues with the Town supporting the application.
“My understanding is several branches of the Royal Canadian Legion are struggling to operate as a result of their historic membership rules,” noted Sgt. Darren Durnin. “While I can appreciate why those rules were put in place, I can appreciate the limitation it puts on a club with a dwindling membership.”
“Historically the Legion has never had any direct impact on service delivery for Smithers Detachment,” Durnin continued. “The nature of the atmosphere at the Legion is likely to attract a more mature clientele base, and not a nightclub-like atmosphere. Like any Liquor Primary, with proper management and adherence to the [Liquor Control and Licencing Act], along with a responsible, community-conscious management group, I do not foresee any meaningful change to calls for service, as a result of a change in licence status.”
The Town supported the above RCMP report, as well as the fact the proposed subject property use is permitted principal use under its C-1A zone and the use is compatible with those of neighbouring properties.
“A transition to a Liquor Primary Licence has the potential to add to the atmosphere of the downtown,” the resolution noted.
During a public hearing period the only person who spoke to the issue, former councillor Phil Brienesse, noted he supports the amendment, but hopes the Town looks at their policy for issuing tax exemptions to establishments like the Legion which are being given more freedom to operate without restriction in a business sense.
“When you guys come back around to your permissive tax exemptions I notice that list keeps getting longer and longer and longer,” said Brienesse
“[The Legion is] one of the organizations that is on that list as well as a number of other organizations that conduct themselves in a business-like manner in order to raise their funds.”
Brienesse said he hopes the Town will consider the implications come tax exempt status time next year.
“[I] really think you need to start considering how operating a non-profit as a business competes with other businesses.”
The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit organization for Canadian ex-service members.
It was founded in 1925.