Martyn Lewis, owner of Brexit, can finally call his establishment a pub thanks to his new primary liquor licence. Lewis plans on extending his business hours to 3 a.m. to revive Penticton’s night life.Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Martyn Lewis, owner of Brexit, can finally call his establishment a pub thanks to his new primary liquor licence. Lewis plans on extending his business hours to 3 a.m. to revive Penticton’s night life.Jordyn Thomson/Western News

Penticton pub owner wants to inject new life into downtown

After nearly six months, the Penticton restaurant can finally call itself a pub

  • Nov. 7, 2018 12:00 a.m.

After nearly six months, Brexit can officially call itself a pub, thanks to the new liquor licence the establishment received.

Martyn Lewis, owner of the pub and eatery located at 67 Nanaimo Ave. E., said this is the first step he and his business will be taking to bring back Penticton’s night life. The UK-native noted that the term ‘pub’ carries a different meaning here in Canada.

“The B.C. liquor laws are complex and kind of strict, and they actually have a definition of what a pub is. Without a liquor primary licence, you are not allowed to call your business a pub,” said Lewis. “You can’t put the word ‘pub’ on the side of the business or advertise it as a pub or be a pub.”

“But to me, a pub is somewhere everybody goes, it’s a community hub,” said Lewis. “I could have called this a pub-style restaurant, but if I asked if you wanted to come to a (that kind) of restaurant, you’d probably say no because that’s stupid.”

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So when he opened in May 2018, Lewis resigned to calling his business a restaurant with a food primary licence. But this comes with strict limitations of what can go on inside the establishment.

“By law, you can’t serve late as a restaurant. The hours are restricted, how you can advertise is restricted, what you can serve is restricted, and the biggest kicker of all is entertainment,” said Lewis. “You can’t entertain — it’s written in the food primary licence that you can’t allow patron participation. Which means you basically just sit there and eat your food, if not you could get a fine.”

Lewis said this prevents numerous activities within his business such as dancing, board games, etc. He said it was “pathetic” that they couldn’t focus on anything aside from their food menu and service.

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“The niche in Penticton is not alcohol or food, it is entertainment. We don’t have anywhere to go,” said Lewis. “Right now there’s only one establishment (within the city) that we can go to until 1:30 a.m. and that’s it.”

Lewis is technically waiting for the licence to arrive, but once it does his liquor primary licence will allow Brexit the option to remain open until 3 a.m. and it will no longer need to worry about “balancing food sales with alcohol sales,” according to Lewis. He will still maintain his food primary licence as he was granted a liquor primary licence as a dual licence.

“The big thing is this will allow me to entertain, so I’ll be looking at some dancing, some general stuff like pub trivia or karaoke. Maybe open mic, there’s a lot of other fun things I’d like to see happening here,” said Lewis. “There’s so much fun that we have in pubs in Britain, just stupid, crazy random fun that you have that you didn’t plan think you were going to have. That’s what we’re missing in Penticton.”

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Aside from extending his hours into the evening and offering entertainment for Penticton’s night owls, Lewis also hopes to fill the gap from the recent Greyhound Cafe closing. He said while he already offers a breakfast menu, he’s playing with the idea of opening earlier to cater to the breakfast crowd.

“We’ve always wanted to put a full English breakfast on the menu, it’s a big filling dish. I don’t know if there’s really a breakfast culture in Penticton, I’m still feeling that out,” said Lewis. “But it just so happens that we’re surrounded by the Greyhound and there’s not a true breakfast option right now.”

Throughout his experience of obtaining his proper licensing, Lewis feels as though the city was not much help. He said he initially announced he was going to run as a councillor but the date of the councillor candidates forum was the day before the hearing for his liquor licence.

“Previously, the council had consistently been voting in favour of 3 a.m. extensions on licences for liquor establishments in Penticton, but when we had our hearing on Oct. 2 – which was the last hearing the previous council sat in — the city staff said they no longer support 3 a.m. entertainment in Penticton,” said Lewis. “It was very strange.”

It was noted by city staff during the public hearing that there were concerns around the service hours, and it was recommended the licence match the Barking Parrot’s current licence requirments that allow it to operate until 2 a.m. Overall, the city staff were in favour of the dual licence application put forward by the establishment.

Lewis said he’d like to see other businesses try to expand their hours and services to help create the night life that Penticton once had. He said he plans on “keeping his nose clean” as the only business owner in town with a licence that allows him to open until 3 a.m., so that other businesses will be able to follow suit.

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