A competing neighbourhood pub has purchased Westsyde Pump and will close it this weekend in what industry watchers say is a sign of the times.
Duane Henning, whose family has owned competing Westsyder for three decades, said Westsyde Pump is a money-losing proposition and requires a change.
“That pub hasn’t had any money put into it for 20 years,” he said, estimating his own investment in the Westsyder at $1 million in the past decade and a half.
Henning purchased Westsyde Pump on May 5 and immediately cut back hours. Now he will shut it completely. The private liquor store will continue operation. Some staff have been moved over to Westsyder.
That move has angered neighbour Michelle Morrow, who believes the move is anti-competitive.
“Why did he purchase it in the first place, if not to shut it down?” said Morrow, who lives across the street from Westsyde Pump.
Morrow acknowledged her favourite pub could be slow at times but said it was hopping at Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day, for example.
But Henning said he wants a viable business at the sight of Westsyde Pump, variously named Alexander’s and Tudor Rose over the years. But that business won’t be a pub.
The B.C. Liberal government changed laws that required a pub to operate at the site of a private liquor store.
“We’re looking at ways to make it viable,” Henning said of the location, adding he’d welcome ideas from the community.
“There’s a need for a family restaurant out here. We’re looking at all options. It’s not viable as it is.”
Fox’n Hounds owner Al Deacon said the Westsyde Pump story is being repeated around B.C.
In Kamloops, this list of shuttered pubs includes former North Shore establishments Bailey’s and Malone’s on Eighth as well as Sgt. O’Flaherty’s downtown.
“It’s tough going out there. They’re dying like flies in smaller markets and on the Coast.”
Deacon said the main culprit is drinking and driving laws brought in by the B.C. Liberals that allowed police to issue instant fines and driving bans for those blowing on a roadside-screening device. The new laws are under review.
“Point zero five (.05 blood alcohol concentration) changed the landscape of our industry forever.”
Morrow also said she’s worried about the spectre of a monopoly in the suburb on liquor sales. The B.C. Liberal government tried to close its Westsyde government liquor store in 2005, but MLA Kevin Krueger had the decision reversed.
It did close outlets downtown and in Valleyview. Today there are three government stores, including the tiny Westsyde store.
One year is left on the existing government liquor store lease.
B.C. Government and Service Employees Union spokesman Oliver Rohlfs said the B.C. Liberal government should demonstrate its commitment to the public stores at the same time it is privatizing the wholesale and warehouse side.
“Government says it’s not about to privatize stores. We expect, as government, they’d confirm this by signing a long-term lease in Westsyde.
Henning said his Westsyder was B.C.’s first neighbourhood pub. Westsyde Pump came in three or four years later in the first wave of pubs after government changed liquor regulations.