PENTICTON - A Naramata winery operator who faced a gallery full of people against an application for a special events liquor licence, hopes to assuage fears at tonight’s council meeting.
The matter first came before council on May 4 and council deferred a decision on the licence for Bench 1775 Winery for 30 days following a number of concerns voiced by neighbours.
Winery general manager Val Tait says she feels her neighbours were opposed to having any activities at all at the winery.
“They’re not supportive of the wine industry or growth in the industry, and they are fearful of what they think wineries are able to do,” she says.
Tait says rules around winery activities are tightly controlled by the liquor board and the Agricultural Land Commission, adding there were a lot of misconceptions about what is and isn’t allowed.
She explains the reason for applying for a special occasion licence is to allow the winery to pour wine beyond the winery’s lounge and patio for special events like weddings, winemaker’s dinners or a culinary event.
“There is a whole host of activities we can already do, we’re just not allowed to pour wine at them,” she says. “The whole reason behind a special occasion licence is to sell more wine and promote our winery.”
Tait says the issue is a complex one and she's had a tough time getting the message out. Even after explaining it to neighbours, they refused to believe her.
“They think I’m trying to open a Boonstock here."
Tait says people really don't want anything going on at her winery, including live music or people on the deck drinking wine and enjoying food.
“Those are all things we’re currently allowed to do. We’re a business, doing what is completely acceptable,” she says.
Tait believes now that the wine industry has matured and draws significant numbers of people, residents aren't as fond of it as they once were.
She compares the friction caused by the winery industry to the friction created by the agricultural.
"Residents have an idealized notion of what a farm is and the reality is a farm is a working site. It’s a disconnect between people’s idea of what a farm should be and what it is."
City council will consider a staff recommendation to support the winery’s application at tonight’s council meeting, June 15.
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