Controversial 600-person pub proposed for downtown Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Residents, businesses speak out about controversial mega-bar development in downtown Edmonton'
Residents, businesses speak out about controversial mega-bar development in downtown Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: Sun, Jul 10 - The 104 Street Committee is speaking out over a proposed 600 person occupancy bar. The group said the project does not fit the character or feel of their neighbourhood. And they are not alone. Julia Wong reports – Jul 10, 2016

A proposed pub on 102 Avenue and 104 Street is getting a lot of attention – but for the wrong reasons.

The developer behind Knoxville’s Tavern and The Pint is applying for a development permit for a 600-person pub.

Letters regarding development applications by Julia Wong Chbc on Scribd

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Those who call 104 Street their home said the pub – if approved – would alter the character and feel of their street.

“The thing about 104 Street is you [have] the historical buildings. It’s really become an urban village. We have a lot of independent businesses, a mixture of residential,” said Shauna Warwick, a member of the 104 Street Committee and condo president of Phillips Lofts.

Warwick said she is not opposed to development, rather it’s the scale of the project that concerns her.

“A 600-person mega-facility on 104 Street just does not fit with the neighbourhood,” she said. The heritage area zoning bylaw currently allows for a maximum of 100 occupants.

“Bringing 600 people in one venue down to this street would actually create a lot of negative impact on people’s quality of life,” Warwick added.

She and other members of the committee are asking the city to deny a request to change the zoning to allow for higher occupancy.

When asked if she would support the project if it did not meet capacity, Warwick said it is still concerning and could set a precedent.

“Approving one venue with that big a variance – this is six times what’s currently allowable – will open the door for possible more establishments to ask for that type of variance. The next thing you know, this street becomes Whyte Avenue, which given the density or residential in this area, it’s not acceptable,” she said.

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Edmund Fong, a managing partner in deVine Wines and Spirits, said he was shocked and disappointed to hear such a large pub was being proposed for the area.

“A venue of that size is just not in proportion to what we’re doing on the street. When you drop something that large…in this beautiful balance right now, I think it will distort and throw things completely off kilter,” he said.

Fong added he would rather see six, 100-person occupancy pubs as opposed to one monster pub.

Jon Hall, who serves as resident representative on the 104 Street Committee, said he is concerned about the impact on residents.

“Even when you have 12 people popping out of a bar to have a cigarette, [they] start to hoot and holler,” he said.

“When 600 patrons leave a bar at two o’clock in the morning, they’ve got to hail cabs, say good night to each other. There will be a lot of noise.”

Chris Buyze, president of the Downtown Edmonton Community League, said it all comes down to what is and is not appropriate.

“It’s not really the use that we’re concerned with. There’s a place for entertainment, bars and nightlife, but it has to be the appropriate scale for the area that it’s in,” he said.

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“When you’re talking about 104 Street it’s a primarily secondary commercial residential street so something of that scale is simply…not the appropriate location and use.”

Buyze said the proposed pub may be better situated on a commercial drag.

“We expect those things at maybe ICE district of Jasper Avenue. But on 104 Street, where you literally have thousands of residents and new residential coming, something of that scale, it’s going to cannibalize what’s happened on the street,” he said.

Coun. Scott McKeen, whose ward includes the proposed pub, is against the project.

“Does it sound like it fits? To be honest, it sounds daft to have that sort of proposal in that area,” he said.

“It seems completely out of character for that area.”

McKeen said the issue will likely not go to council. He said city administration will make a decision on the permit, and if it is approved or rejected, either side could appeal.

The councillor’s main concern is the enormous capacity.

“I get why the community is upset here. I think they’re right and I think their voices should really be heard on this,” he said.

“We don’t want to deter business. But we have a right I think – as a community – to say too much is too much.”

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Chris Kourouniotis , spokesperson for the developer, downplays the scale of the project.

He said occupancy is merely an indication of capacity at the site and there would not always be enough people to hit the maximum allowance.

The same developer also applied for a development permit for a live music venue able to hold 1,400 people on 109 Street and 102 Avenue.

Peter Ohm, the City of Edmonton’s chief planner, hopes city administration will make decisions on both applications within the next month. He added the area is already zoned for bars and nightclubs with 100 seats or less, but said the sheer size of the applications means the city has discretionary power in terms of making a decision.

“When we’re talking about 500 over and 1,300 over, there’s a lot to weigh in terms of a discretionary decision here.”

Ohm said city policy in the area gives it a mandate to “introduce some vibrancy” but he added that needs to be balanced with the opinions of area residents and the context of scale in terms of the size of businesses wanting to open there.

According to Ohm, the city is also consulting with the Edmonton Police Service as well as Responsible Hospitality Edmonton to assess the potential impact of allowing the bars to open.

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Residents with concerns about either development are asked to contact the city’s development office before July 19.

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