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Brewery chief passes torch

Twenty-three years after taking the helm at Vancouver Island Brewery and making the brand a household name among Islanders, Barry Fisher is stepping away from the firm's day-to-day operations.

Twenty-three years after taking the helm at Vancouver Island Brewery and making the brand a household name among Islanders, Barry Fisher is stepping away from the firm's day-to-day operations.

Fisher remains chief executive and president of the Island's largest craft brewery, but handed the general manager duties over to Jim Dodds, a former Labatt executive, on Dec. 1.

"It was time," the personable Fisher, 71, said yesterday.

Fisher has split his time between the brewery on Government Street and his 42-hectare beef and hay farm in the Cowichan Valley, and said there wasn't enough time in the day to do both.

The former dairy farmer and butcher (his son still runs Glenwood Meats) will retain his majority ownership in Vancouver Island Brewery. Fisher owns about 60 per cent of the shares of the privately held company, with the remainder split between 35 shareholder groups. The brewery employs 50 and produces five lines of beer, including Piper's Pale Ale and Vancouver Island Lager. Of the 35 craft brewers in B.C., Vancouver Island sits No. 3 in volume behind Sleeman-owned Okanagan Spring and Vancouver-based Granville Island.

The brewery was founded in 1984 in a small Central Saanich warehouse by John Hellemond, John Young, Ray Moore and Jim Clarke and moved to its current location at 2330 Government St. in 1995.

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Gordie Dodd is throwing his hat into the political ring. The well-known television pitchman and owner of Dodd's Furniture who claims he "won't be undersold" is seeking the Liberal nomination for Saanich South in this spring's provincial election -- the riding held by retiring NDP MLA David Cubberley. Dodd, however, said he is facing some resistance from the local riding association, which told him at an initial meeting on Monday they were leaning toward former broadcaster and chamber of commerce president Robin Adair to carry the Liberal colours. Shannon Renault, policy development and communications manager for the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, has also let her name stand. Dodd, however, says he has plenty to offer, including a face everyone recognizes and a solid business and community reputation. "I've been involved in everything in Victoria except politics and really want to contribute to the people of the riding," Dodd said yesterday. The 63-year-old entrepreneur said now that his son is running the furniture empire and he's recovered completely from some recent heart problems, he is looking forward to serving the public in political office. The next riding association meeting is Jan. 19.

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Victoria's tourism industry is feeling the heat of the economic meltdown as fewer heads are hitting the pillows in the city's 4,339 hotel rooms. In his most recent compilation of key tourism indicators, Frank Bourree of Chemistry Consulting said average hotel room occupancy in October slipped six per cent from the same month a year ago and is down four per cent year over year. With occupancy slipping, revenue per available room has declined $9 to $73.13 month over month, which is hurting hoteliers' bottom lines, said Bourree. Traffic on B.C. Ferries also showed sharp declines, with vehicle and passenger traffic both down six per cent for the first 10 months of this year and bus traffic off by 10 per cent. The number of delegate days at the Victoria Conference Centre has also plummeted by 20 per cent. The only bright spot has been Victoria International Airport, which has seen 1.3 million passengers through the gates over the first 10 months of the year, a five per cent increase.

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Barry Remus has joined the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia as project development facilitator for Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Powell River. He will play a leading role in encouraging the development of a viable and sustainable agri-food sector in the regions through grants and other funding opportunities.

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The Land Title and Survey Authority of B.C. signed an agreement this week to lease space in Jawl Investment Corp.'s new office building at 800 Yates St. Land titles had been planning to be a tenant in the Radius on Blanshard, but that development was stalled and is now being taken over by the Townline Group, developers of the former Bay building. Occupancy at 800 Yates is expected in the summer of 2010 and brings together the land titles office, surveyor general's office and corporate staff under one roof. The custom-built area will include climate-controlled vault facilities for land title records.