City looks for last-call solution
Problems on Kamloops streets when bars let out for the night may not stem from the establishments or the patrons themselves, but from a lack of cabs, according to one local club owner.
Teri Willey, co-owner of the Blue Grotto, believes a lack of cabs at closing time is fuelling some of the late-night weekend trouble.
“A lot of the problems starting outside is people fighting over taxis, milling around outside waiting for a ride or a way home,” she said, noting the area around the Victoria Street club doesn’t attract much trouble.
City council is wrestling with how to stem the problems at closing time — including proposing an extended dispersal or “soft closure,” which would allow bars to stay open until 3 a.m., but stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m.
The idea is this would ease the number of people piling into the streets at the end of the night.
However, the province’s liquor-licence watchdog has recommended against the idea and intends to meet with local RCMP and city officials to discuss the issue.
The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) noted soft closures in other cities have not been successful in alleviating late-night disturbances.
Willey said she wouldn’t want to stay open the extra hour, but would do so if it helps reduce the problems.
Meanwhile, the city’s top cop would like something done to address the issue.
Kamloops RCMP Supt. Yves Lacasse said police on weekends have to freeze calls and dedicate all resources to bar-closing time.
He suggested on any given weekend night there could be as many as 1,000 people on the downtown streets — keeping police busy dealing with everything from fights to public urination.
“It’s just a matter of time before somebody gets hurt seriously,” Lacasse said.
However, council doesn’t appear to be ready to make any decisions on a course of action, instead waiting to meet with the LCLB first.
Coun. Denis Walsh suggested the downtown is saturated with too many bars with a capacity of more than 100 people and it might be time for a moratorium on new establishments.
“I think we should have that discussion as to what’s our level of saturation of liquor primary outlets in the downtown core,” he said, adding the bars take up prime locations in the downtown, but aren’t open in the day.
Coun. Pat Wallace said she hasn’t seen much damage from the late night revellers and wants the city to proceed “very carefully” when it comes to the issue.