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Habitat live music venue granted rezoning for liquor license change

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 | 5:30 am

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Mark MacEwen, bartender at The Habitat, pours a drink at the venue's four-year anniversary party. (Photo Holly Miyasaki)

By John McDonald

The owners of The Habitat, a restaurant and live music venue on Leon Avenue, were celebrating Tuesday night the granting of their request to city council to change the zoning of their business to allow a liquor primary license.

Despite opposition from Kelowna RCMP and Coun. Graeme James, council agreed to change the zoning of the property to C7LP from C7 after a public hearing that saw a bevy of supporters make their case.

With the rezoning in place and once the change is confirmed through an application to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, no longer will patrons be required to order food alongside their drinks.

The change will also allow The Habitat an additional 92 seats, from 133 to 225, and let patrons stay an extra half an hour when taking in a show.

Kelowna RCMP Insp. Anne Morrison told city councillors the change would just add to the bar flush from 3,200 hundred revellers that pour onto downtown streets when local nightclubs let out at 2 p.m. “It will just mean more strain on our resources,” she said, dismissing the earlier closing time as irrelevant.

She pointed out a recent liquor license violation that cost The Habitat a $7,500 fine, but Habitat principal Quinn Best told council the violation was for serving an undercover cop a drink while the kitchen was in the process of closing down, a no-no under its current license.

Best’s partner Kat pointed out to council that with the Liquid Zoo currently out of business because of its connection to the Hells Angels, and the closing two years ago of the Willow Inn, that downtown is actually down 400 liquor primary seats even with the extra seats given to The Habitat.

Most of the people who spoke in support of the change were employees of The Habitat, who spoke of the need for a different kind of music venue than the nightclubs that currently dominate downtown.

Coun. Charlie Hodge supported the motion, calling it part of the solution, not the problem.

“It’s no secret we have problems downtown,” he said. “I don’t believe The Habitat is one of them. I’m not sure how we can revitalize downtown without bringing people down there. If we turn it down, we will lose a unique downtown venue.”

Coun. James, on the other hand, said turning the application down would not kill The Habitat.

“You’ll still be there, still carry on,” he said. “I can’t see how giving you a liquor primary license will benefit downtown. I can’t see that happening with all those people spewing out into the street and us adding more.”

Coun. Kevin Craig, who at 19 is around the average age of The Habitat’s patrons, said there’s plenty of people he knows who would not set foot in that part of downtown if the venue did not exist. “We’ve talked about the goal of attracting young people to Kelowna to fight the demographic shift,” he noted. “This is one of the ways you do that.”

Coun. Luke Stack supported the motion, but immediately proposed a moratorium on new liquor primary licenses until the Mayor’s Entertainment District Task Force completes its report, likely next year.

After the meeting, an ecstatic Kat Best said the struggle to get the liquor license change had actually made her and her partner better at running a business by forcing them to focus on the details and outside perceptions of their company.

The public hearing was held over from November to give city staff time to find out whether a restrictive covenant could be placed on the property to ensure it could not be turned into a nightclub, something staff discovered was not feasible.


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2 Responses to “Habitat live music venue granted rezoning for liquor license change”

  1. Jordan Fraser says:
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    As someone a little older than the demographic, I am pleased for the Habitat and its patrons. Anyone who really knows this place knows that any problems downtown do NOT come from Habitat, but the surrounding nightclubs. Cheers.

  2. natasha Wood says:
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    Congratulations Habitat! and thank you to city council members for taking to time to listen to the staff and the patrons of this unique and community focused venue. YOu are making a shift in your thinking!

    The habitat i believe is the ONLY place where people check their attitudes at the door and enter ready to embrace the people, the talent,the spirit and the joy that surrounds them in this setting….. NOt to mention the plethora of bands and musicians, local,from BC and throughout Canada that grace the folks at the Habitat! It is a community focused atmosphere to be celebrated and acknowledged!

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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