By J.W. Schnarr
Council has directed administration to negotiate a summer contract for a business currently in charge of running the concession at the Vauxhall Community Complex arena, paving the way for an opportunity for the business to provide full-time summer service to the community.
During their regular meeting on April 7, council addressed a request from the business, the owner of which appeared at a previous council meeting in order to make the original request.
During discussion, however, Mayor Margaret Plumtree said due to the nature of the contract in place with the business, including low rent for the space as well as utilities being paid for by the town, an unfair advantage was being granted to the business at the expense of other local restaurants.
“Our job is not to create an unfair advantage, so that the other restaurants in the community go broke,” she said.
Chief Administrative Officer Cris Burns said in his research, he discovered that while many municipalities have similar deals in place for private entities to run the concessions at public facilities, there are often contracts in place regarding hours of use.
When polled, council agreed that it would generally be a positive addition to the town if the concession was open year-round, but many were unsure of how to allow them to continue to operate.
If the business were to continue to operate during hours when no facilities were in use, a separate contract should be drafted involving a summer rate.
Burns said if council directed administration to negotiate a contract, a price could be arranged at that time.
“You need to negotiate fairly hard because they are really low,” said Phillips, regarding the large difference in facility costs for the business when compared to other similar businesses in the area.
As part of the discussion on the use of town facilities, it was noted there is an apparent double standard in regards to the ability for the business to provide alcohol to customers.
“You can’t get beer at the hockey rink. But you can at the baseball stadium,” said Phillips, adding he was not necessarily was in favour of allowing the rink concession to serve alcohol. “It just seems strange to me that at one town sports facility, we allow them to get a liquor license and sell beer, and at the other, we don’t.”
Coun. Martin Kondor said alcohol can also be served at the curling rink, another town-owned facility.
Phillips jokingly referenced an episode of The Simpsons where one of the characters attended a baseball game sober, only to realize how bored he was.
“You’ve got to have beer at baseball, where hockey is fast enough that you don’t need that, I guess,” he said.
Kondor said as a hockey parent, in 90 per cent of the rinks he attends, he is able to purchase alcohol if he wants.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” said Coun. Kim Cawley, noting people who drink at hockey games then get into their vehicles and drive home. She also said it was inappropriate for people to be drinking while watching six-year-olds playing hockey.
“And imagine those guys having a couple beers and going out on the ice to play shinny?” she asked. Coun. Linda English seemed to be in agreement.
Following discussion, council directed administration to begin negotiating with the company in order to achieve an equitable deal on a summer agreement, which would run separately from the current winter agreement.
“In the winter, it’s a service,” said Phillips. “In the summer, it’s a for-profit business. I think it’s completely appropriate.