Sara Gardiner serves up a cold one for Rob McDonald in the lounge at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91 in Langford. The Legion has applied to have their liquor license increased to add an outdoor patio. (Gazette file photo)

Legion liquor license request causes controversy

Langford council votes against recommending patio extension

An application to increase the capacity of the Legion’s liquor license came under fire at Langford’s council meeting Monday.

A handful of neighbouring residents voiced concerns about the increase, noting patrons are already outside causing disturbances.

“You put another 50 people outside and it’ll be chaos,” said Patrick Fortune.

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91 applied at the end of July to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) to increase the capacity of their existing licence by 52 people, which would be supported by the addition of an outdoor patio.

Last month, council decided to review the proposal and notified all properties within a 30-metre radius of the 761 Station Ave. property, inviting them to provide feedback on the application.

As Coun. Denise Blackwell noted, the City does not have the ability to approve or reject the application but can only offer its recommendation to the LCLB.

A report prepared by staff noted the Legion’s hours are Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The reported noted the Legion’s hours are reasonable given nearby establishments are open until midnight or 2 a.m. depending on the day and that the patio would likely only be used for a short time of the year given the weather.

At the time that report was compiled, no feedback from the public had been received by staff.

But the noise was one of the main concerns voiced by neighbouring residents at Monday’s meeting.

“The Legion has been nothing but a disruption to the neighbourhood,” said Cody Sanderson, whose home neighbours the property.

“It’s so loud we can’t sleep,” Fortune added. He plans to retire and downsize in the near future and is worried that if this application is approved it will effect the value of his home.

But as a few residents noted, it’s not necessarily Legion members causing these problems but some of the patrons the facilities are rented to for weddings or themed events.

“It’s not a bunch of elderly people … there’s all sorts of people hanging out at the Legion,” Sanderson added.

Other neighbours echoed their concerns adding some of the smoke and language coming from the property is unacceptable given the children in the neighbourhood and along with parking problems, there has been some concern about patrons driving intoxicated.

Acting as mayor, Coun. Matt Sahlstrom noted he was shocked to hear this feedback from residents as it hadn’t been brought to his attention before. He suggested staff have a look at the adjacent street and see if it would be possible to make it resident permit parking only.

He also questioned whether it would be possible to put up some type of noise blocking concrete fencing.

During council’s deliberation, Coun. Lanny Seaton excused himself from the meeting due to a conflict of interest.

After he left, Coun. Lillian Szpak said “I appreciate those of you that came out to speak tonight … We’ve got to be extremely cautious of how this proceeds.”

While she noted they have to support the Legion, they also have to support other residents as well.

Ultimately, council voted not to recommend the patio extension be approved.

On Tuesday, Legion president Norm Scott said he was not at the meeting because it was his understanding that it was an in-camera session and not open for public input.

“The Legion has been here since the early ’60s … It’s sad, it’s really sad that three neighbours can rally up that much support and overturn this application.”

He noted bylaw officers from the Capital Regional District have visited the branch and they are following all of the smoking laws. He also noted their current liquor license would allow them to operate from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day of the week. But he said at the majority of their events the bar closes before midnight and attendees usually leave before 1 a.m.

The idea behind the patio, Scott said, is to provide members with a quiet space outside to enjoy a drink in the sun during summer months when membership is down.

“I’m bewildered right now.”

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