Temporary bylaw would expand liquor hours, ban some ads during Games

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Proposed changes, made after public backlash to original plan, go to city council Tuesday

Kelly Sinoski

Pubs and restaurants will be able to serve liquor on week nights just as they do on weekends — until 2 or 3 a.m. — under new bylaws proposed by City of Vancouver staff during the 2010 Olympics. Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider, Vancouver Sun

Olympic spectators will be able to drink alcohol at pubs and on patios late into the night seven days a week, make more noise and take a rickshaw down pedestrian corridors during the 2010 Olympic Games.

But those hoping to make a buck during the Games with illegal commercial advertising, street-vending without a permit in Olympic zones or sharing single-room hotels, will face a minimum $250 fine as the city ramps up its municipal ticket enforcement.

Those are just some of the temporary changes being proposed by City of Vancouver staff in a revised 2010 Olympic Winter Games bylaw that will go before city council Tuesday.

The bylaw, initially approved in July, proposes temporary adjustments to 10 city bylaws during the Games, including relaxing noise and liquor service hours and cracking down on illegal commercial advertising, graffiti and littering.

The changes arose after a public backlash over concerns that the bylaw would unfairly restrict freedom of political expression.

To resolve this, the city proposes to crack down only on commercial advertising.

It would have the power to remove illegal commercial signs — or ambush marketing — in as little as one day, if it has the owners’ consent or a court warrant.

The aim is to have the fines act as a deterrent to keep the city attractive to tourists and investors while ensuring the value of Games sponsorship.

“Someone can make a lot of money selling advertising for five days during the Games,” said Coun. Geoff Meggs.

“We want to make sure they won’t profit.”

Illegal non-commercial signs — including ones containing negative messages about the Games — would be removed under the existing bylaw process, which could take up to 30 days, unless they pose a safety risk.

Meggs said the initial bylaw was passed as an “insurance policy” but people were not satisfied with the city’s explanation at that time.

“Our intention is to be a good host for the Olympics. We have to be proactive in managing the Games properly,” he said.

“The city was never intending to kick down a door and take down a fridge magnet … or tear off their T-shirts. But obviously there was a concern.”

The proposed changes would see weekend liquor services for bars and restaurants seven days a week, meaning pubs and restaurants could be open until 2 or 3 a.m. from Feb. 8-28, although licensees will still need approval from the provincial liquor control branch.

The city has also proposed to amend the daytime noise bylaw between Feb. 11 and 28, coinciding with the torch relay and increased activity downtown, and to put into place a plan to quickly eliminate graffiti in high-visibility locations — at taxpayers’ expense — between Feb. 1 and March 28.

Twenty rickshaws would also be allowed on pedestrian corridors as an “additional sustainable transportation option,” complementing 60 pedicabs.

But they, along with the pedicabs, must have a permit or risk a fine.

About 60 city engineers, park rangers, fire officials and community service workers will be deployed to enforce city bylaws, including street advertising, street-vending without a permit and failure to clear snow and ice off the streets.

“The speed with which the city addresses bylaw violations during the Games will be critical to ensure safety and enjoyment of the residents and visitors,” according to the city report.

Meanwhile, the city suggests restricting the area of the security zone in Coal Harbour and increasing security around Robson Square, now the official provincial government venue. It will also permanently increase the fine for violations of the fire bylaw to a maximum of $10,000.

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Society, said he’s pleased with the changes although he’s concerned about the potential impact on street vendors and those setting up shelters along Hastings Street, which has been dubbed an Olympic zone.

“What we’re concerned about is the ability of people to hold signs and chant,” he said. “The Olympics are like any other day in Vancouver.”

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