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Tiki bar deemed not responsible for problems at Lake Okanagan Resort

The Tiki Bar at Lake Okanagan Resort.

- This story was originally published June 9, 2022.

It’s Lake Okanagan Resort management that needs to clean up its act, not necessarily the Okanagan Beach Club’s Tiki Bar operators.

That, at least, is the opinion of directors of the Regional District of Central Okanagan who supported the extension of the Tiki Bar’s liquor licence today, June 9, despite a staff recommendation against it.

“I think the bar is not responsible for any particular adverse effects of being there,” board director and Lake Country Mayor James Baker said in moving a motion of support. “I think it’s positive to have control of the beach area.”

District staff were concerned about 169 calls to West Kelowna RCMP from the resort over the past five years and the Wilson’s Landing Fire Department had concerns about increased medical calls for intoxication and drug overdoses.

READ MORE: District staff against extension of Okanagan Tiki Bar liquor service, citing drug use and safety concerns

In reality, the Okanagan Beach Club has only been operating the Tiki Bar for the past two years so the five-year time frame was not relevant to its operations.

The calls were not made to the police because of activity at the beachfront bar, operator Ryan Hargreaves told the board.

“It’s not a crazy rave on the beach,” he said. “It like a piece of Mexico out in the Okanagan.”

Hargreaves blamed the calls to police on the people renting rooms in the resort, pointing out there are five strata councils operating in the various buildings, which he has nothing to do with since he only operates the food services.

“People Airbnb their places and a lot of people don’t do quality checks,” he said, noting that the partying that has caused disruptions from guests in the rooms, not patrons at his bar.

The bar is only open until 8 p.m.

In the summer, there can be 800 people staying at the resort, Hargreaves said. Plus, he’s booked 45 weddings of about 100 people each for July and August.

The Tiki Bar, like others in B.C., was allowed to expand its seating into more of a patio area during COVID. The operators have applied to continue that expanded capacity now that COVID restrictions have eased. If approved, it allows for a maximum of 200 people on the beach. With the full support of the regional district board, the provincial Liquor Licensing Branch is expected to approve the application, district staff said.

The larger area gives the bar operators control over who is on the beach and what they do there. Without the extension, it would open it up to anyone to party on the beach, Hargreaves said.

READ MORE: Trying to make Lake Okanagan Resort exciting again

Most of the customers come by boat, often as part of a tour, he said. It’s the only waterfront bar on Okanagan Lake.

While Okanagan Beach Club doesn’t manage the marina, people are allowed to tie up on the outside of the dock and come to the bar. It has security patrolling the dock to make sure people aren’t drinking in their boats while tied up there and security to make sure no more than 200 people are in the bar area at any one time.

“We have full security,” Hargreaves said. “They’re six-and-a-half feet tall and heavies. People aren’t mucking around with them.”

He’s had no notifications from police about boaters being intoxicated at the dock or after leaving it.

While the RCMP is concerned about how far the resort is away from West Kelowna, that’s a situation that’s been in existence since the resort opened in 1979.

The resort is about 27 km from the West Kelowna RCMP station.

The chief of the Wilson's Landing Fire Department confirmed that all but one of the calls for medical assistance to the resort over the past two years was to the Tiki Bar itself. That was to deal with a woman who was too intoxicated to walk.

Another call the department responded to was to the resort for a heart attack victim. A fair percentage of the other calls were for drug overdoses and one suicide attempt, none of which were related to the Tiki Bar, the chief said.

“What we really can’t delineate is if the calls for service come to the balance of the resort,” board director Gail Given said. “In fact, we don’t know if participants started at the Tiki Bar and then finished their day back up in their rooms. Separating out who is responsible is very complicated.

"At the end of the day, I would expect a lot better management at Lake Okanagan Resort and if, in fact, we have some problematic short-term rental providers, that we actually get onto those folks as well.”

Lake Okanagan Resort has been struggling for a number of years as it ages and has suffered from neglect.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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