Village 'megapub' brawl brews

Salt Building surprise for Olympic Village condo owners: large ale outlet seen as threat to ambience and property values for residents and city

Ed Safarik, Olympic Village penthouse owner and retired Ocean Fisheries CEO: fears that when CRAFT Beer Market opens a brewpub in the village's Salt Building the resulting congestion and noise will drive down property values

Homeowners at the former Olympic Village are lobbying the City of Vancouver to stop Calgary-based CRAFT Beer Market from opening a 350-seat, 13,000-square-foot pub in the Salt Building.

The pub, they say, will create a host of problems that will devalue not only their units but also 175 unsold units, in which the City of Vancouver has a direct financial stake.

The pub could therefore cost Vancouver taxpayers millions of dollars.

The city bailed out Olympic Village developer Millennium Development with an emergency $750 million loan in 2008. Last June, receiver Ernst and Young estimated city debt related to that loan at $348 million.

Olympic Village condo sales, after expenses, will directly reduce that debt. A group of Olympic Village homeowners has sent letters to city councillors and met with both the city's planning department and city manager Penny Ballem.

The city, however, is expected to grant CRAFT Beer Market a development permit later this month.

"The CRAFT Beer project undermines the huge investment that the city has in the village," said retired Ocean Fisheries Ltd. CEO Ed Safarik, who owns a three-bedroom penthouse overlooking the Olympic Village's plaza.

"I don't think anybody gives a rat's ass if my property goes up or down, but the pub could affect property values [of unsold units]."

Safarik and others believe property values will drop because of:

•traffic congestion resulting from the limited number of visitor parking spaces;

•noise, especially at night; and

•a higher risk of alcohol-related crimes such as muggings and violence.

Safarik believes that the estimated $239,000 in annual lease payments that the city will generate from leasing the Salt Building pales in comparison with how much the city will lose as home values sink and the city's ability to recoup debt from the village slides in tandem.

"The original information we got on the Salt Building was that it would be village-retail with a restaurant," said Jim Elliott, who is another homeowner concerned about a second pub taking space in the emerging neighbourhood and who feels he was misled by project marketers.

He pointed to one online brochure that says the building will house a bakery and a restaurant. Another claims that "retail" tenants would occupy the Salt Building.

"We were told that the building could have a pub in it, that a pub might be part of it," Elliott said. "But we were told nothing of a megapub."

CRAFT Beer Market is expected to have more than 140 beers on tap from 250 kegs holding 19,000 litres of beer. Still, it will be licensed as being food primary, meaning that serving food is the primary focus of the business. The neighbourhood's current pub, the 8,000-square-foot Tap and Barrel, has the same liquor licence designation.

Rennie Marketing Systems owner Bob Rennie told Business in Vancouver that neither he nor any of his staff ever told prospective buyers that the Salt building would house retailers.

"We told people that it would be a Mark James Group (MJG) brew pub," he said.

When city negotiations with local pub owner MJG fell through, Rennie said his staff said that the likely tenant would have a food-primary licence.

"The name CRAFT Beer and the fact that they have 150 types of beer might lead you to believe that it is liquor primary," Rennie said. "But it would be like the Cactus Club having 150 kinds of beer. Food primary, whether it is a Cactus Club, a CRAFT Beer or a White Spot, is still food primary."

No one from the city was available for comment at press time.

"As the proponent's application is under regulatory review, it would be inappropriate for the city to comment further at this time," said one communications representative who did not want to be named.

Not all Olympic Village residents fear the pub, however.

"The Salt Building has had special events that were full, and I enjoy it," said Carlos Taylhardat, who owns the Art of Headshots photography business. "Property values will be affected by whether the economy can continue to grow, not whether there is a brew pub at the village."

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