Minimum distance booze rule dropped in downtown Edmonton at request of Katz Group

Rogers Place well below the Stantec Tower in Edmonton's Ice District, Nov. 16, 2018. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Edmonton city council formally dropped a restriction that prevents liquor stores from being too close together on Monday. The request is over a year old, and opens the door for the Katz Group to set one up in Ice District, possibly by the summer of 2019.

“It is a special consideration, but it’s a special consideration given the number of factors that are out there that are known today,” planner Travis Pawlyk told city council during Monday’s public hearing.

READ MORE: Edmonton residents asked to weigh in on distance between liquor stores

He said it reflects a decision that was made by a council committee in October, and is part of a change in direction that is being made for downtown and Oliver.

Councillor Scott McKeen said the change is endorsed by both the Downtown Business Association and the Downtown Community League because of the growing population.

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“How do you figure out separation distances? Do you look at population density… especially in walkable communities like in downtown or Oliver? Or do you use the typical ones which in different context are sort of drive-to amenities?”

READ MORE: Expect to see more suburban liquor stores in Edmonton after court ruling

McKeen also pointed out that Ice District is a $2 billion development.

“I’m not saying they should get away with anything, or we should throw our hand up and say yes to anything, but I don’t see how this is a wild ask for them to have a liquor store for their residents and for the people who stay in the hotel.”

“This is really troubling to me,” Councillor Aaron Paquette said. He thinks the rules should be formalized first.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that we would give special consideration just to one organization in a certain area.

Councillor Ben Henderson shared that concern.

“This is what we said we wouldn’t do for cannabis when the same question came up in another part of downtown, which is basically say ‘this area doesn’t have to play by the same rules as everybody else.’

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“I understand we may be changing it, but we haven’t passed that yet. It hasn’t come to council yet. So I’m just a little bit nervous at the rationale and anticipation at something that may or may not pass here, that we’re carving off a zone, and allowing them to play by a different set of rules.”

According to the report that detailed the text amendment application,”there are approximately 13,000 current residents with a targeted population increase to 24,000 by 2030 and over 60,000 people working within the downtown. Downtown has effectively hit its maximum number of alcohol sales outlets, limiting the ability to respond to additional population and visitor growth.”

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