Residents urge Victoria council to halt downtown pub expansion

A proposal to expand the seating capacity at a downtown Victoria pub isn’t sitting well with some nearby highrise condo residents who say drunks spilling onto the streets at night are already causing headaches.

The complaints prompted Victoria councillors to delay deciding on an application from owners of the former Executive House Hotel to expand Bartholomew’s Pub in the hope hotel management will meet with area residents to try to find a way to ease their concerns.

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Some councillors mused about identifying certain precincts downtown to try to create separation between residential and entertainment areas.

“We want people living downtown and we want the downtown to be a centre of regional entertainment. Clearly, we’re getting conflicts,” said Coun. Geoff Young. “I don’t know whether we have to start thinking about zones in the downtown that are primarily focused on one function or the other. … With [Humboldt Valley’s] increased residential occupancy now, people are hoping that that is a bit of a quieter zone.”

Coun. Ben Isitt agreed an entertainment district or a couple of non-residential blocks might be a good idea. Isitt and a number of other councillors also wondered if some issues experienced by people living in The Falls building might be attributed to patrons of the Strathcona Hotel, which has more than 1,200 licensed seats.

The Executive House, 777 Douglas St., is being rebranded as a Doubletree by Hilton. The 140-seat Bartholomew’s Pub has been gutted and is expanding into the space that used to be occupied by the Café D’Amore. The idea is to close the 120-seat café and add 55 seats to the pub. (With 46 seats in the adjacent Doubles Lounge, the total liquor-primary seats would increase to 241, including 32 outdoor patio seats.)

But many nearby residents don’t like the idea. When buying at The Falls condo, located between the Strathcona and Executive House hotels, Robert and Lexie Brough said they expected a lot of activity and some street noise.

“But we had no idea it would be like living next to a fraternity house,” they wrote to council.

Many other residents of The Falls complained of problems with noise, vandalism, violence and drunkenness, which they fear will only get worse if the pub is allowed to expand.

In all, council received seven letters from local businesses in support of the application, but it received more than three times as many — mostly from residents of The Falls — in opposition. The Victoria Downtown Residents Association also is opposed, saying an expanded pub “will do little to enhance the livability of the Humboldt Valley enclave.” Council also received a 46-signature petition in opposition.

But after meeting with hotel management, representatives of owners in the Aria condo across Humboldt from the pub entrance, wrote to council saying they did not oppose the expansion. They did ask that a doorman or security guard be stationed by the door to limit loitering and noise as patrons left. Mayor Dean Fortin hopes a similar meeting with residents in The Falls might produce the same result.

Victoria council doesn’t have the authority to allow or disallow such applications. It simply offers input to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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