By Jessica Wallace
If you're leaving a downtown bar and looking for a cab, you needn't look too far.
The City of Kamloops is hoping bar patrons will be able to hop into a cab directly outside popular downtown establishments now that designated taxi pickup locations have been moved.
Taxi stands are part of ongoing city talks to alleviate the bar flush issue in Kamloops' downtown core. City of Kamloops community safety and enforcement manager, Jon Wilson, said taxi companies warned that people weren't walking to the Third Avenue and Lansdowne Street locations where the stands were initially installed.
"They recommended we look at putting them in front of the main establishments," he said. "People weren't regularly walking to them."
Two and three parking stall taxi stands are now set up in front of The Blue Grotto and the Commodore Grand Cafe and Lounge on Victoria Street and in front of Cactus Jacks Saloon Night Club on Fifth Avenue. Signs prohibit drivers to park in the designated stalls from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
"They were actually just finished and installed last week," Wilson said.
He added that the new locations will not only be more convenient for bar patrons but will also allow bar staff to assist in monitoring and create awareness about the stands thereby facilitating people from the bar to a safe ride home.
Co-owner of the Commodore Grand Cafe and Lounge, Dino Bernardo, said the stands already seem to be working a lot better after just one week. He is more than willing to have his doormen direct people to the stands after closing time, but he doesn't feel that the entire onus should be on the bars.
"As bars, we're willing to help fix the solution, but it's not just our responsibility," he said. "People that are drinking need to take responsibility for their own actions."
The bar flush issue has been an ongoing conversation between RCMP and the city. The main nightclubs in town all close at 2 a.m., creating a busy rush in the streets.
RCMP staff Sgt. Grant Learned said it's typically seen between Victoria Street and Lansdowne Street and Third Avenue and Fifth Avenue on Fridays, Saturdays and some weekdays depending on circumstances such as weather, special events in town, holidays, etc.
Learned said the problem can be taxing on police resources. He said personalities that imerge from alochol can cause problems such as vandalism, fights, etc.
"Around 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. is when we would see an increase in those types of calls," Learned said. "We do schedule with additional resources for the weekend nights anticipating this."
Police aren't the only ones busy during this time.
The bars are closing, but one downtown restaurant stays open 24 hours. As people frantically search for a safe ride home, some are looking for a late-night snack.
McDonald's restaurant on Third Avenue and Victoria Street is as packed as any bar on a Friday and Saturday night, being the only nearby place to visit and sit inside after-hours. Other options include Mountain High Pizza across the street from McDonald's, but it is limited to a walk-thru window, and Denny's, but it is a decent hike up towards Columbia Street. The downtown McDonald's location is so busy, management mans the doors.
"We're running it like you do a bar during the busy times," said Mike Bays, McDonald's operations consultant, adding that it "gets a little bit crazy" from 1:30 to 3:30 a.m. "If you open the door up and just let everybody in, that's when you get problems."
The downtown location operates with three times the management staff on nights of the expected the bar flush to accommodate partiers with a hankering for a hamburger.
Bays is happy the city decided to move the taxi stands, the one on Third Avenue was just outside McDonald's, and he expects the new locations will eliminate people from the restaurant who are simply waiting around for a cab.
He said most people are good if you're polite to them, but the ones that cause problems are often those who just want to go home, but can't.
At one time security was hired for the restaurant for safety reasons, but Bays said it created an intimidating environment and caused more problems than it solved.
He's happy to know that the people making the walk from the bars will be the ones who just want to enjoy some McDonald's food.
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