PENTICTON - An application for a winery lounge and special event area beverage license for a Naramata bench winery turned out to be a controversial item on the agenda at Penticton city council's regular meeting this week.
Bench 1775 Winery applied for the license to add food and beverage service to the main areas of the winery, as well as for special events, private dinners and special tastings.
Vineyard manager Trevor Brohmer, speaking to council on behalf of general manager Valeria Tait, described the winery as “far away from neighbours,” which incited a flurry of guffaws and jeers from the gallery, filled with neighbours of the winery and opponents of the application.
“We’re willing to work with the neighbours,” Brohmer said in response to the jeers, adding he suspected some of the neighbours were upset because they felt they hadn’t been consulted.
However, for roughly the next hour and a half members of the gallery stepped up to the mic, to voice almost unanimous opposition to the application. Most were concerned about noise issues, while some also spoke of the potential for more impaired drivers on Naramata Road.
City staff also received several letters opposing the application for similar reasons.
“The size and scope of the application and the type and size of events that could occur concern us greatly,” wrote Mark Goozee of Fleet Road, who also expressed concerns over increased traffic and a “worrisome precedence” the approval could set for other wineries.
“Last summer we frequently heard loud music late into the night coming from that area but thought it was just neighbours having a rowdy party. We were horrified to find out this is a commercial business that could get a license to disturb the neighbourhood six night a week. There are already 23 weddings booked for 2015,” wrote Jill and Peter Sanders of Midland Road.
The winery is asking for up to 24 people be allowed in the interior lounge and 40 in the exterior lounge. There would also be an additional tasting room and special event area for 33 people. Proposed hours of operation would be from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. for the winery lounge Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. If the change to the special event area hours were allowed, it would stay open until midnight.
City of Penticton economic development officer Colleen Pennington spoke to council, pointing out the economic benefits provided by wineries.
Council agreed after some discussion to support the application for a lounge license, but handed the matter of a Special Event Area endorsement back to staff for further study.
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