Cactus Jack's will get capacity expansion — under a condition

Another 130 patrons will be allowed into Cactus Jack's Night Club each evening, but not until the downtown club has gone a full year without a capacity infraction.

Kamloops city council has agreed to support the nightclub's application to increase the capacity allowed under its liquor licence to 625 from 495, with the condition it not kick in before April 1, 2013.

That will be exactly a year after the club was dinged by the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch for letting in 116 more patrons than allowed in an evening.

While the club's owner is disputing the infraction in court, Dennis Coates, a lawyer representing the club, said there is no objection to waiting until Cactus Jack's has had a clean slate for a year.

Coates said the bar wants the added capacity so it can attract bigger live-music acts to the city.

"You can't really do it at 475," he said.

Sgt. Darren Michaels of the Kamloops RCMP told council police don't have an objection to the bar growing, as long as it sticks to its licensed capacity. That allows RCMP to ensure there are enough officers downtown to control any problems that might break out.

"We're not opposed to the increase," Michaels said. "We're just asking for a clear record for a period of time to imply good faith."

Several councillors, however, raised concerns about statistics provided by the RCMP that showed the force is responding to more complaints in or in front of Cactus Jack's than at other nearby bars.

This year to date, there have been 90 calls for service to the bar at Lansdowne Street and Fifth Avenue, including 12 assault complaints and 25 liquor violations, which would include public-intoxication issues. By comparison, Central Station, at Lansdowne Street and Third Avenue, had 23 calls for service, the Noble Pig, at 650 Victoria St., had 17, and the Commodore, at Victoria Street and Third Avenue, had 15.

"No matter how you look at it, Cactus Jack's at 90 is very high," said Coun. Tina Lange.

Michaels said that the number of calls to the RCMP is proportionate to the club's much higher capacity.

"The higher the number, obviously you could have a greater increase in issues if it's not properly managed," he said, adding there is a higher risk of "mob mentality" as more people are let into a bar.

"I can't really say it's going to increase or not. It's all how it's managed. I will say Cactus Jack's has always been very proactive."

Coun. Nancy Bepple noted the nightclub still won't be the highest-capacity venue serving alcohol in the downtown. When it's hockey season, the club is dwarfed by Interior Savings Centre.

"It's not the number of people that are at the venue that makes the problem or not," she said. "It's up to the organization to make it a safe venue."

But, Lange said the extra flush of patrons onto the streets at night would create problems for downtown hotels and residents. something she cannot support.

"It is very noisy for hotels downtown," said Lange, former co-owner of downtown Plaza Hotel. "And, we are trying to attract more tourists to our hotels downtown."

Council voted 7-1 to support the increase, with Lange the only councillor opposed.

Mayor Peter Milobar sat out of the debate and vote as he owns the same kind of liquor licence as the nightclub.



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