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Sugar Nightclub seeks permission to renovate

Nov 11 2011

A proposal that would allow Sugar Nightclub in downtown Victoria to renovate — almost doubling its building occupancy load — is being recommended to go to public hearing, despite concerns from police about increased problems at closing time.

Sugar owner Damian Cownden said there are no plans "at this time" to apply for an increase in the number of licensed seats, so even with the planned renovations, there will be no additional people in attendance at events.

"We are not increasing the liquor licence, and until any such time the liquor licence was increased, we're not putting one more person in the club than we are now," Cownden said.

The nightclub, at 858 Yates Street, wants to expand its occupancy load to 600 from the current 348 but needs a parking variance to do so.

The club isn't planning to expand its footprint, but rather to make interior renovations to improve washrooms, fire exits and the main entrance, Cownden said.

The intent is to modernize the facility and increase safety, he said.

"A good chunk of our project is going to be spent on noise — making the space quieter. We're trying to make the main entranceway wider and less congested so hopefully we can reduce the amount of noise from the egress at the end of the night," Cownden said.

City staff have recommended council approve the parking variance.

The city's planning committee Thursday recommended council send the application to public hearing.

Coun. Pam Madoff cautioned committee members that, should the variance be approved, any subsequent application for an increase in licensed capacity may not require a public hearing and potentially could be handled by the Liquor Licensing Branch administratively.

"So if the public has an issue, they need to come to our public hearing, because at least then we could communicate from the residents to the branch," Madoff said.

But Cownden emphasized that his current application is not for an increase in licensed capacity and said his understanding is that any such application would require a hearing.

"This does not affect the liquor licence in any capacity," he said.

The city staff report says Victoria police are concerned that a significant increase in capacity may result in noise disturbance and other negative impacts to residents at closing time.

Staff say parking is not a concern.

A consultant's report estimates the additional capacity will generate the need for only about 20 additional parking stalls and those can be accommodated in the surrounding area.

In a letter to council, Cownden said it is important to note that, over the past three years, the club has been open an average of two nights a week and usually for only four hours a night, with performances often ending at midnight.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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