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Richmond to explore pilot program for extending nightlife hours

Zodiac Karaoke and Pub's application to extend opening hours until 3 a.m. was rejected.
Zodiac Karaoke and Pub on Alexandra Road.

A karaoke pub's request to stay open one hour later has been shelved, but staff will look into a pilot program to enrich Richmond's nightlife.

Zodiac Karaoke and Pub's application to extend its opening hours from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. to compete with similar establishments in Vancouver was rejected by a majority vote during Tuesday's community safety committee meeting at city hall.

The application, submitted earlier this year, received support from owners of other karaoke bars and nightclubs including No. 88 Music Restaurant, True's Club and Millennium Karaoke.

City staff recommended against approving the application, citing community safety concerns and community opposition to a 2004 application of a similar nature in a report to the committee.

"It's not a very good report card, to be frank," said Coun. Bill McNulty in reference to a confidential memo provided to city council, adding there were cases of assaults and sexual assault.

The memo appeared to detail complaints and calls to service at Zodiac.

"People have been taking alcohol out of there into their cars, people have been over-served. Those are really serious things so (Zodiac needs) to get their act together," Coun. Laura Gillanders added.

A demand for nightlife in Richmond

While councillors rejected Zodiac's request based on its track record, some expressed "mixed feelings" about the broader implication for nightlife establishments.

"We could come into the 21st century on how people socialize," said Coun. Kash Heed, who was in favour of exploring options to meet the lifestyle needs of residents.

Gillanders added there are "higher risks" that come with a lack of legitimate options for nightlife. 

"I'm concerned with Richmond not having an area where people can stay up late and get together because what we have is we've got things like underground casinos and things popping up on ALR mansions for example," she said.

Questions were also raised about examples used in the city staff report.

It was an "unfair comparison" between Richmond and the Granville entertainment zone, said Heed.

“That’s like comparing the hospital precinct area and the low barrier housing to the Downtown Eastside, you know. That’s ridiculous if you use that as a comparison,” he said.

Rather, Heed said, staff should compare the situation at karaoke bars and nightclubs with restaurants such as the Cactus Club, where Richmond RCMP's uniform gang taskforce is "always in there walking through, always stopping people."

The information would either confirm data provided by staff or show the Zodiac is not "that far out of the range."

"I'm wondering what constitutes bad behaviour relative to everybody else," said Coun. Alexa Loo, who also brought up establishments including the Buck & Ear and Earls.

Acknowledging this was not done for the preliminary report, staff told Heed they could follow up with a comparison to ensure they are not "cherry picking" and singling out karaoke bars and nightclubs.

The committee ultimately passed Gillanders' motion for staff to explore how a pilot could be run for licenced premises to extend nighttime hours. 

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