Regional district staff concerned about mega winery restaurant on ALR land near Oliver, B.C.

Last August Global Okanagan's Shelby Thom interviewed now former Phantom Creek Estates President Ingo Grady about its new mega million dollar winery on the Black Sage Bench.

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen staff are recommending the approval of a restaurant at a multi-million dollar winery under construction south of Oliver, B.C. despite reservations.

Phantom Creek Estates wants to build the eating and drinking establishment at its 72,000 sq.ft. winery on the Black Sage Bench, despite the property being on agricultural land.

READ MORE: Burgeoning wine industry in the south Okanagan

“We want to attract new, discerning guests to Phantom Creek with a destination restaurant in the South Okanagan,” said the winery in its proposal to the RDOS.

“A winery restaurant also provides a high margin sales channel that is integral to our overall business plan.”

A 72,000 sq.ft. winery is being built on the Black Sage Bench south of Oliver, B.C.
A 72,000 sq.ft. winery is being built on the Black Sage Bench south of Oliver, B.C. Phantom Creek Estates

In a report to the board, regional district staff ultimately recommend the authorization to proceed to the Agricultural Land Commission for final approval, but they do cite concerns.

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Planning supervisor Chris Garrish says full-service restaurants in the ALR “potentially diminish the link between the agricultural operation and the retail outlet by allowing a restaurant to exist as an independent commercial entity.”

Additional concerns include:

  • The erosion of the agricultural land base due to larger structures and expanded parking
  • Impacts of more people, traffic, noise and trespass on adjacent farm operations (i.e. neighbour · complaints)
  • Complaints and conflicts with other types of agriculture that may not fit with the “winery aesthetic”
  • Pressure for other, non-farm related amenities (i.e. meeting facilities, hotels, spas, etc…)
  • That such uses should be directed to the Town of Oliver as the commercial hub for the area

However, Garrish points out that the board amended the definition of a winery to include the development of restaurants within the ALR, and bylaws encourage clustering buildings such as the applicant is proposing; building the restaurant within the winery building already under construction.

Phantom Creek Estates is expected to release its inaugural wines next spring, coinciding with the opening of the winery.

Phantom Creek Estates wants to include a restaurant at its winery on ALR land.
Phantom Creek Estates wants to include a restaurant at its winery on ALR land. RDOS

It’s an expensive project. Building the winery and acquiring three vineyards, including the historic Phantom Creek and Sundial Vineyards, cost around $100 million.

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The winery is owned by Chinese immigrant Richter Bai, who now resides in the Lower Mainland.

The board will review the application at its bi-weekly meeting on Thursday.

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