Nanaimo liquor primary business licence fees will remain lower to match restaurant fees

Andrew Pederson is praising Nanaimo council’s decision to permanently reduce business licence fees for liquor-primary businesses as the ongoing labour shortage pushes up his costs.

“We have had to really really sharpen our pencils,” he said Thursday from his Landlubber Pub on Bowen Road.

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The hospitality sector in Nanaimo, Victoria and elsewhere is having a tough time finding enough workers.

Pederson has a total of 24 staff and is short four people in the kitchen. The recent minimum wage increase to $15.20 per hour in B.C. boosted the salaries of servers. But kitchen workers are so in demand that he increased some of their wages by more than $2 per hour.

He’s looking at ways to shave costs by examining everything from housekeeping products to looking at group food purchases.

“We are really having to get creative here because we don’t want to close our doors a day or two a week like a lot of businesses have been forced to do.”

Pederson’s revenue dropped by 85 per cent in April alone.

On the plus side, the Landlubber set up a patio and ventured into online sales. “We have two wonderful new streams of revenue that we are going to refine and work on.”

Nanaimo council voted in February to cut the 2021 business fees for liquor-primary establishments to $165, the rate charged for most businesses, from $1,100 for 2021 alone. The move affected 29 businesses.

The motion was brought forward by Coun. Sheryl Armstrong because of the impact of the pandemic. She said at the time that because liquor-primary businesses were operating similarly to restaurants, they should pay the same amount. Health and safety restrictions changed operating rules for liquor- primary businesses.

This week, councillors unanimously voted to keep liquor-primary fees at $165 permanently, in line with restaurant fees. Armstrong made the motion, saying that it would be unfair to liquor-primary restaurants to return to higher fees.

Many restaurants operate with features found in liquor-primary establishments and sell liquor.

“You can go into a place [restaurant] and have beer or whatever, so I think it is very unfair” to have different licence fees, she told council on Wednesday.

Pederson agreed, saying that some restaurants have full bars, with large television sets playing sports, similar to what would be happening in a pub. By setting similar rates, “it really does apply common sense,” he said.

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