In the late 1990s, one of the first beers crafted by the nascent brewery at the end of Furness Road was named “Bureaucracy Bitter” — a hoppy nod to Salt Spring’s long permitting process.
Decades later, early steps for the Salt Spring Brewing Company’s efforts to expand from a “tasting room” to a “lounge” liquor manufacturer licence have already run into resistance from neighbours. An April 11 virtual “open house” hosted by the Islands Trust through Zoom brought the brewery’s local management staff and nearby residents together in a public consultation, part of the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) approval process.
The brewery has asked the LCRB for an expanded tasting room and patio, representing a new cap of 50 patrons on the new outdoor patio and a change of potential operating hours to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days, staying open as late as 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Islands Trust planner Anthony Fotino pointed out his role at the open house was to act as a “middleman” — simply to facilitate the public portion of the liquor branch application.
“We’re just relaying what concerns the community has,” said Fotino. “What I can tell you is that there is a fair amount of opposition to this application.”
Concerns from residents at adjacent properties — and from others on-island — included noise from intoxicated patrons and speedy traffic at the end of a road populated by at least some families with young children. Additional concerns surrounding water and septic — and the general notion of what was seen as a bar in a residential neighbourhood — drove a consensus among public attendees that, at a minimum, hearing from the owner on their mitigation plans was necessary.
Brewery management staff said the owner was “overseas,” but Fotino said in addition to relaying information to LCRB, he would be reaching out to the owner on the community’s concerns.
Salt Spring Brewing Company is currently owned by the Victoria-based Forbes Group; principal Michael Forbes made national news recently when a pharmaceutical company he helmed announced it had obtained a Health Canada licence to sell cocaine.
Health Canada later clarified the licence did not grant permission to sell to the general public. In addition to the brewing operation on Salt Spring, Forbes Group owns an assortment of cannabis, psychedelics, “biohacking” and assisted/complex living centres, as well as rental stores and pharmacies, according to company literature.
The LCRB process is only the beginning for the brewery’s expansion plans. Fotino said regardless of the LCRB’s decision, Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee (LTC) would still need to consider the land use portion of the application at 270 Furness Rd. That issue may be before the LTC as soon as its May 18 meeting, he said.