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Leisure complex proposed for Whistler includes bowling alley

600-seat restaurant also part of the plan that goes to public hearing in September

As public discourse around a proposed bowling alley and restaurant complex in Whistler Village ramps up, a public hearing has been scheduled to move the project forward.

Whistlerites can take to the podium on Sept. 18 at 6p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre to add their voices to the public record.

The application to the Resort Municipality of Whistler proposes a massive overhaul of the long-vacant property located at 4295 Blackcomb Way (formerly the AlpenRock House, which closed in 2002), including a restaurant, patio and lounge on the main level, and eight bowling lanes, billiards, ping pong, foosball, skee-ball and basketball nets on the lower level.

The 616-seat proposal complies with the property's current zoning but requires modifications to two covenants, which will take it through the public-hearing process.

The covenants were written in 2002 for a specific proposed nightclub and apply to the lower level of the property (strata lot 241), said municipal planner Frank Savage in a presentation to council on Aug. 14.

"Lower level strata lot 241 has always been designated for indoor recreation amenities," Savage said. "Restrictions have been placed, or imposed, to ensure that indoor recreation remain the predominant use and that entertainment that excludes minors, that is liquor-primary, does not become the focus of the space."

Proposed modifications to the covenants include updating a specific floor plan, limiting the lower level capacity to 289, requiring that unaccompanied minors be permitted in the games area until at least 10pm and requiring that full food service be available any time the bowling and games facility is operated, among other minor wording changes.

While the proposal from National Beerhall Inc. (a division of Calgary-based Concorde Entertainment Group) has generated opposition from the resort's bar and restaurant sector (see Pique, June 28), several other individuals and businesses have come out in favour in recent weeks.

In total, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has received 19 letters in support and 16 opposed (though many letters came with multiple signees).

Like the opposition letters before them, several of the support letters were drafted using a form letter.

The letter, which originated from the Concorde Entertainment Group, highlights the project's indoor recreation offerings, family-oriented programming and Concorde's 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

In attempting to address some of the main concerns from local industry around housing and staffing troubles, Concorde and property owner Larco Investments are proposing to convert 6,800 square feet of nearby "underutilized" Whistler Village commercial space into housing for 46 employees (of the establishment's expected 100).

The proponents would use "similar practices to that of other Whistler food and beverage operators" to house the rest.

In terms of staffing, Concorde plans to recruit key skilled management, culinary and other full-time positions from its current staff of more than 1,000 while using best practices for recruiting provincial and international employees.

While council was generally supportive of the project, some councillors shared the concerns of local food and beverage operators.

"My concerns are, (at) 616 seats, it will have an impact on the smaller businesses, and most of those smaller businesses are independent ones," said Councillor John Grills. "With our current staffing crisis, we have a lot of food and beverage businesses running well below capacity."

Councillor Sue Maxwell was not reassured by Concorde's staffing strategy.

"I think we need to be careful about the staffing, so when they say that, 'Oh don't worry, we're just going to hire staff from elsewhere,' ... that's like guaranteeing that our community grows again, right?" Maxwell said.

"Is the staff housing in a suitable location? ... Maybe there is some other higher and better uses we need for that particular space and maybe the staff housing should be somewhere that's a little bit more conducive to it. But I would be really curious to see what people say at the public hearing."

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