Victorians thirsting for another local tasting room will have to wait a little longer.
Moon Under Water Brewpub on Bay Street, in the process of opening its own sampling spot, has been told by the City of Victoria they need a higher ratio of parking spots to patrons.
When the establishment opened up under different owners, they needed to offer one parking spot per five patrons. This gave the brewpub the ability to have 104 people in the building at once. Now under new management and after purchasing the previous Modern Beauty store next door, new building permits require a three-to-one ratio between both spaces.
“We did new calculations and it became 74 seats between the two spots,” said the pub’s co-owner, Anne Farmer. “To have 20 here in the tasting room, we’d have 54 up there [in the pub] and wouldn’t last a month. That would cut our income in half. There’s no way we’d survive.”
City staff realize the parking requirement is antiquated and are in the process of changing it.
“It hasn’t been updated since the ’90s,” said City director of planning, Jonathan Tinney. “So we’ve gone through a review of that document with a consultant and looked at different parking activities, to see what the parking demand is today.”
But changing policies can take time and Tinney said in the meanwhile businesses can apply for a parking variance.
That’s where confusion began for the brewpub.
Farmer said that, following City staff recommendations, they hired an architect, electrician and mechanical engineer to plan out the new tasting room. The architect submitted plans using newer rules he had previously used for permits for other projects, but was told by City staff those rules couldn’t apply in this case because Moon Under Water is an established business, and that the new rules aren’t in place yet.
City staff informed them that they could apply for a variance, Farmer said, which usually takes three to four months, or they could wait a couple months until the new rules are enacted.
|The Moon Under Water Brewpub want to open their tasting room to the public, but are having hang-ups with permits from the City. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS
She said the decision seemed easy; either apply for a variance – which her architect told her could come with a $10,000 price tag – and wait three months, or, wait two months and have new rules in place that would forego the current three-to-one ratio parking requirement.
“So we said OK, we can wait, there’s things to do in the meantime,” Farmer said. “Two months later they said the rules haven’t changed yet, but expect it in January. We went back in January and they said check again in March.”
Farmer said the pattern continued and each time she was told the new rules would come in place soon, and that she was actually discouraged from applying for the variance.
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“They’ve told us on many occasions not to get a variance because it’s a waste of everyone’s time, because the rules are changing,” she said. “Now eight months later they’re thinking maybe we should get a variance.”
Tinney said City staff have been consistent in telling the brewpub to apply for the variance.
“Staff have advised Moon folks that this was the process, and that they just needed a variance since 2016,” he said, adding that once the application was in the process, the brewpub could move ahead with any other necessary work. “Typically those things take a couple of months, but the key thing is we provide them with options, and that allows them to undertake the construction they need to do.”
Farmer said the brewpub has everything else in place, and that they’ve already had inspections and licences distributed by provincial authorities, federal authorities, the CRD, VIHA and the fire department. Now they’re just waiting on the City.
“The City is holding us up because of parking, it just doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “By holding us at these rules they’re basically promoting drinking and driving. If people know there’s a lot of parking at an establishment they’ll drive.”