No dice for Chances patrons who want to dance

An application from Chilliwack Gaming Ltd./The Well for a permanent change to its food primary licence failed to get approval

Customers looking to be entertained at the new Chances community gaming centre are still not allowed to get up and dance.

An application from Chilliwack Gaming Ltd./The Well for a permanent change to its food primary licence failed to get approval by council at the last meeting.

Chances officials were applying for an “entertainment endorsement” that would allow dancing, talent shows, singalongs and other types of patron interaction at the Chances restaurant, called The Well, as well as on the patio.

Council voted twice on the matter Tuesday night, once to deny the motion and the next time to approve it. Both times the deadlocked vote was a 3-3 tie, so the application ultimately failed.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz, who voted in favour, and said the applicant satisfied the requirements, said another hearing will be required if the applicant wants to bring it back for another attempt.

“In accordance with the City of Chilliwack Procedural Bylaw, should the vote be equal for or against a motion, the motion is defeated,” reads a press release sent out the morning after the meeting. “The item can be brought back by the applicant again in the future, or brought back for reconsideration within 30 days by the Mayor or a majority of the members of Council, at which time a subsequent Public Information Meeting will again be required.”

Corky’s Pub owner Bob Harms sent a letter of opposition to council about the proposed liquor licence change saying that Chances officials were “clouding” the distinction between a restaurant and a pub, which was “bad ground to walk on,” he said at the meeting.

“It seems to me that Chances, if successful in their current application, would have blurred the line between a restaurant and a pub, and be well on their way to applying for a full Liquor Primary licence, or at the very least a large lounge or holding area, so that they would not have to serve food with liquor and people could walk around with their drinks,” Harms wrote in his letter.

The issue of unfair competition came up more than once.

“I see this as a hopeless endeavour,” Harms added before taking his seat again.

The long-established pub across the road from Chances, Friendly Mike’s Pub, has taken “a lot of hits,” in recent years, said pub general manager John Toussaint. He also wrote a letter of opposition to council saying the Chances’ licence change would “directly compete” with his business, adding that they had already lost half their business in the last 10 years.

“We do not want to compete with pubs,” said Howard Blank, vp of Great Canadian Gaming, when he got to the microphone at the hearing. He apologized to the pub and bar owners, stating that Chances is an “entertainment destination with terrific food.”

So far food sales have exceeded their alcohol sales since opening in November.

They purposely don’t have pool tables, Blank told council, or some of the other “unique” features found in bars.

“With respect to the advertising, we don’t want to pretend to be something we are not,” he said, adding he was unaware of the wording of the ad.

The advertising copy will be adjusted accordingly, he said.

“In closing although we have only been here a few months, we want to make it clear we are not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

Mayor Gaetz read out sections of the ad copy, saying the part about “taking a break” from local bars was something she found “offensive” and that the advertising has probably put them on “thin ice.”

Here’s the ad copy found online: “The Well is your local go-to in Chilliwack for good times and good company. Take a break from the typical Chilliwack pub scene…From the ambiance of the space, to our people and food, the entire experience will have you feeling like this is your kind of place.

Whether you’re looking to meet friends for an after-work pint, or you’d like to host a gathering in our private function space, The Well is the perfect neighborhood watering hole.”

Coun. Ken Huttema was one of the councillors who voted against the application, citing another example where the city had trouble with a food primary licensed business that was acting too much like a pub, the closed-down Duke of Dublin.

“I think we need to send a message with this one,” he said.

Coun. Chuck Stam also voted against, as did Coun. Ken Popove. Stam mentioned he would like to see more clarity from the province on licensing issues, and worried about the precedent this application might set.