PENTICTON - Local outcry over a Naramata winery’s application for a special events liquor license had the makings of a major protest.
When it was all over, there appeared to be little substance to the negative views heard in council chambers earlier this week though.
Bench 1775 Manager Val Tait explained the reasons behind her licensing request to council, reiterating her motives were all about building the business of wine sales, as opposed to adding to noise levels in the area and annoying her neighbours.
“I’m willing to work with my neighbours to mitigate noise and other concerns, I was surprised at the outcry last time this came before council," she said Monday, assuring council since she heard of the concerns she has been trying to work with her neighbours.
Tait said she had no plans to dramatically increase the number of special events beyond the nine to 13 she has hosted annually over the past three years.
Most of those present in the gallery expressed concerns over noise levels, noting how far sound travels on the Naramata Bench. Tait said allowing the liquor license wouldn’t make any difference to such complaints, noting the winery already had a legal right to play music, adding most of the time the music volume being played was at a low level to provide a background for conversation.
Tait also addressed concerns over security and impaired driving, noting the winery worked closely with local shuttle services to ensure customers got a safe ride home. She said she hired security for any large event taking place after 7 p.m.
Most of the comments from those who came forward in the gallery spoke against the application, with the majority citing noise from music as the biggest issue. One resident, claiming he lived 1.5 kilometres away from the winery, said he could clearly hear the strains of Roy Orbison playing last Saturday night, insisting the music came from Bench 1775.
“Are you really sure the music came from our winery?” Tait asked. “Because I had the gates locked at 7 p.m. We were closed Saturday night.”
Council discussed the possibility of shorter hours and restricting occupancy loads at length before Coun. Max Picton said council shouldn’t be trying to dictate how the winery conducts its business, reminding them of the bylaws in place to deal with noise issues. Coun. Judy Sentes agreed, saying provincial legislation and local bylaws were in place to deal with those issues, as long as residents made the complaint.
Council approved Bench 1775’s request for a special events area endorsement, subject to an amendment that limits the number of those attending an event to 150 from 200. The winery joins four others — Poplar Grove, Painted Rock, Upper Bench and Misconduct Wineries — in acquiring a special events area licence.
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