Controversy surrounding outdoor licenced venue to be taken to Central council

MINDEMOYA—While members of the Providence Bay/Spring Bay Lions Club and the Ride Manitoulin committee would like to have an outdoor licenced venue set up to allow participants and visitors to the July event to move around to other areas of municipal property to view activities being held in conjunction with the Ride, some members of the Central Manitoulin Services Committee (which includes council members) are concerned with issues of liability if an occurrence takes place on their property being used for the event and want to see a designated beer tent area set up.

At a meeting held last week, it was noted that a contract had been approved and agreed to with the Providence Bay Agricultural Society for use of their property, but this has since been withdrawn.

It was pointed out by services committee and municipal Councillor Pat MacDonald, “the agricultural society didn’t want any of their property used for a licenced event.”

Brian Mitchell, vice-president of the Lions Club, provided a map of the area the township owns at the Providence Bay arena property, and the area the club is asking to be licenced.

The area being looked at takes in an area about half way through the bleachers-corral area at the back end of the arena property.

“We are requesting the outdoor licenced venue so that bikers who are participating in the rally can basically sit in the first three bleachers and can have a beer in their hand if they want to while they watch the biker games and other events taking place,” said Mr. Mitchell.

Larry Morrison, Ride Manitoulin committee member, added, “this is a bit of a gray area. We have been told the agricultural society turned down the contact because they didn’t want alcohol on their property. It is my understanding when you accept and approve an agreement for a contract it is a done deal.”

The contract was approved by Mr. Mitchell and Dawn Dawson, fair board secretary/treasurer, as well as by a representative for Ride Manitoulin.

“At what time of the day was this contract signed?” asked services committee member/Councillor Adam McDonald. “I have talked to Dawn and she said you arrived at her house at between 7-7:30 am and told her to sign the contract. I contacted her today and she is extremely upset, especially when she was trying to get her kids ready for school and then is confronted with this. I have asked council to set a policy for outdoor licenced venues, but we don’t have one. We have to come to a compromise.”

“The position of the fair board was that they do not want alcohol served on their property,” said Ms. MacDonald. She acknowledged the municipality doesn’t have an outdoor licenced venue policy, which it does have in place for halls and arenas.

“It is not true what he (Mr. McDonald) has said,” stated Mr. Mitchell. “I called Dawn (Dawson), and when I got back from Florida in March everything had been agreed to and the only reason the contract hadn’t been signed is we had to finalize the insurance policy, and she said it would be okay to go over to her house and have this done. She was not blackballed or coerced into signing the contract agreement.”

“One thing I would like to know is if Mr. McDonald is representing the fair board or council tonight,” asked Mr. Mitchell. The former indicated he was representing council.

“So you shouldn’t be talking on behalf of the fair board,” said Mr. Mitchell.

“I’m not prepared to address the fair board issue, but I would propose we allow the space being requested by the Lions Club and Ride Manitoulin, including the outdoor licenced venue,” said Ms. MacDonald. She said that in the two years the event has taken place, the participants and visitors have behaved well and there has not been any unruly behaviour, or problems with drinking.

Councillor Derek Stephens said, “I agree with Ms. MacDonald’s opinion on this. We’ve allowed this for two years and now there is a problem? The event is secure and policed well and there has been no incidents over the past two years. I fully support the outlined map and request that has come forward.”

Mr. Morrison said as chair of Ride Manitoulin, and working security for the event, it costs organizers about $3,000 in security to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“One thing this government has done in the past five years has been to open up the areas for outdoor licenced venues so people can move around an area and take in all the events being held around them,” said Mr. Morrison. He said beer tents don’t allow participants to move around and watch activities. “And the bikers who attend our event have not done anything that has brought complaints from anyone. In the two years no one has been charged outside the ground with drinking and driving. Security is very good and strict at our event. And what Adam has said sounds like a threat….we are one Island and we need to try to support each other.”

“My question is why is Adam so much against us?” asked Mr. Morrison.

It was pointed out government regulations allowing for outdoor licenced venues were changed in 2011.

“We wanted the area being used for an event like this to stay small, and so people are not walking around with alcohol in their hands,” said Councillor Gloria Haner. “I have a problem with the size of the proposed licenced area we are talking about on the map. I don’t think it’s necessary. Can the bikers not watch the games without a drink?”

“Since June 1, 2011 the provincial regulations have changed to allow the street festival type events,” said Mr. Mitchell. “The reason they did this was to allow for more social events, where people are not confined to beer tents to drink. We are not there to promote alcohol or drinking, our security is very good, and we don’t let anyone leave the grounds who is under the influence. Even when the music starts the band stage security closes the big gate and this is the only way in or out. And if our security guard smells any alcohol the driver is not allowed to leave the site.”

“I will not be voting in favour of the drawing that was presented to us,” stated Mr. McDonald. “In the same token I’m not against the outdoor venue, but we don’t have a policy on this. The municipality has an obligation; if something happens at an event we will be named.”

Leanne McGill, president of the Lions Club said, “when the games are on or the music is on (not being able to move around) will mean bikers and those in attendance at the event will be excluded if they want a drink (and have to remain in a beer garden).”

With two members of council not in attendance at the meeting, Ms. MacDonald said she would withdraw her motion to agree with the map proposed and have the request heard again at the next council meeting.

The liquor licence permit application has to be in before June 19 or it will be too late for the event, the meeting was told.

Lions member Evelyn Mitchell stated, “Providence Bay is dead and we trying to do the best we can to improve the situation. But it is getting harder to get volunteers to help that, and then this type of thing comes up.”

The services committee agreed to pass a motion sending the issue to full council.

Tom Sasvari