BASS: How does one nightclub’s request differ from another?

Call me confused.

This week, city council agreed to let Cactus Jack’s Saloon expand when, just a year ago, it rejected a similar request from nearby Rivers Nightclub.

So, rather than having two viable establishments in the downtown catering to those who view a good time as going to a bar, having a few drinks and listening to some music, one venue gets to go to 625 occupants from 495.

Let’s go back to November 2011, when Rivers wanted to increase its  occupancy of 210 to 380.

The owners of the Lansdowne Street venue said it needed to grow to stay competitive with other bars and pubs in the area.

Coun. Marg Spina, speaking against the request, said she wanted to see security problems and compliance with police and liquor regulations be met for a period of time before she would be comfortable with the expansion.

Council was told 10 per cent of the RCMP’s overtime bill in the first eight months of 2011 went toward the late-night bar flush.

Council received a letter from the local police saying the club was considered the biggest drain on police resources, compared to others downtown, and noted the club’s licence was suspended in August 2011 for one week due to liquor infractions.

“Increasing the capacity to an establishment that is already disproportionately drawing police resources will undoubtedly further skew this demand, opening the door for more drunken and disorderly conduct in the downtown core,” the letter stated.

“This is not the image we hold for Kamloops.”

Then-club operator Angela Jackson told council she had brought new measures in place, including a device to scan patrons as they enter, more lighting in the alley behind, video security and accredited security staff to address the issues.

The request was still rejected.

Move to this week and Cactus Jack’s was in front of council, asking to expand, acknowledging a liquor violation it is challenging — the allegation is it was more than 100 people over licensed occupancy in April — and listening as the RCMP talked about the venue location being the address that sparked 90 complaints this year.

Council did hear some of those calls to the police came from the nightclub staff and others might have involved folks whose bad behaviours might have begun elsewhere downtown, but not noticed and reported until they got to Cactus Jack’s.

And, council heard from Sgt. Darren Michaels, who said it’s difficult to predict if the number of incidents at the Fifth Avenue location will increase as does its occupancy, although the officer attending council did acknowledge it as a possibility and that there would still be a draw on police resources.

In the end, only Coun. Tina Lange voted against the expansion, citing concerns about noise and its impact on nearby hotels and residences.

What does this mean?

In April 2013, Cactus Jack’s occupancy will be almost as large as that for Sagebrush Theatre or just 100 people fewer than the entire Kamloops Convention Centre, set up in theatre style.

And, all those people will come pouring out late at night.

(Here’s a suggestion: Require headliners at clubs to hit the stage at a reasonable time, rather than the 11 p.m. or later many feel is oh-so-appropriate. But, I digress.)

That leaves the downtown with one massive venue and another empty building that, now stripped of its liquor licence, will probably sit empty for some time to come.

How that helps the downtown is beyond me.

How creating a massive venue for drinking and partying helps the downtown is also beyond me.

Whatever happened in the past 11 months to make council view this application differently than it did the one from Rivers is completely beyond me.

Dale Bass is a reporter with Kamloops This Week. Her email address is here. Her blog can be found here.



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