Board balks at liquor licence for Oliver restaurant

One of the region’s staunchest defenders of agriculture has taken issue with a South Okanagan winery’s bid to expand its drink menu.

The owners of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards near Oliver are seeking a new food-primary liquor licence for their Miradoro Restaurant that would allow them to serve alcoholic beverages other than B.C. wine.

To get the new licence, however, Tinhorn requires a non-farm use exemption from the Agricultural Land Commission, which must first gain approval from the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Allan Patton, the RDOS director for rural Oliver, said at a meeting in December that winery restaurants in the Agricultural Land Reserve are generally restricted to selling beverages produced on site so the business remains “related to agriculture.”

“Now when you take that off, it’s just like every other restaurant,” he said.

“Do we want to have every agricultural zone in our regional district allow restaurants, full-service restaurants, that have really nothing to do with agriculture?”

But West Bench Director Michael Brydon suggested that rather than undermining agriculture, a fuller drink menu might actually help people make a living from the industry.

“We’re not saving agriculture by denying (customers) a vodka-soda,” Brydon said.

“Let business people run their businesses.”

Tinhorn Creek president and CEO Sandra Oldfield said the new licence is being sought to allow for the addition of locally produced beer and spirits to Miradoro’s menu.

“Tinhorn has no desire to be serving Budweiser. That’s not what we’re here for. But we would like to be able to serve the local brew (made) here in Oliver and the local spirit maker’s (products) as well.”

Oldfield said the restaurant is currently required to suspend its liquor licence and obtain a special occasion permit in order to serve beer or liquor at private events like wedding receptions. She also noted it wouldn’t make business sense for Miradoro to push anything Tinhorn doesn’t produce.

”But that being said, there are certain people who don’t drink wine and we’d like to offer them a locally made product as well,” she said.

“I fully support the ALC because I like what they do. The difference for me for this one is they’ve already allowed us to have this restaurant on our property. This is (about) how we’re running the inside (of the restaurant), and that to me is where it’s so strange.”

Although RDOS planning staff recommended the board deny Tinhorn’s non-farm use application, directors agreed to Patton’s motion to instead send the matter to the Area C advisory planning commission for consideration. The committee will then recommend a course of action to the board.

The RDOS board in 2009 approved a similar non-farm use application for the restaurant at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery near Oliver, but the application was later denied by the ALC in 2010.

According to that decision, the ALC was concerned that a food-primary liquor licence “moves away from the original intent of the winery lounge being linked to the growing, processing, marketing and sale of grapes as an agricultural business and moves towards a more commercial operation in the ALR.”

The ALC in 2012 studied the issue more fully but decided to leave the current regulations in place and continue to deal with food-primary liquor licences at winery restaurants on a case-by-case basis.


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