Traffic will continue to flow one-way on White Rock’s Marine Drive for now – at least until council’s next regular meeting on Monday, July 12.
At a one-hour meeting July 5 to gather the views of East Beach business owners – and after weighing 19 written submissions – council members were prepared to accept that, in the words of Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, “it’s clearly not working for the majority of East Beach businesses.”
But a majority of council supported a motion from Trevelyan that a final decision be delayed until council had given a similar opportunity for West Beach businesses to comment on the measure – originally introduced by the city to allow businesses to expand their patio space during COVID-19 limitations.
“We have to give west-side businesses the same opportunity – maybe if we do that Monday (July 12) we can make a decision on this,” Trevelyan said.
Coun. Scott Kristjanson and Coun. Anthony Manning spoke in favour of Trevelyan’s motion.
“It’s not going as well for East Beach as we hoped,” Kristjanson acknowledged. “But we do need to hear from the West Beach businesses.”
“We made the best decision we could with the best information at that time,” Manning said. “But I think it’s time for us to look at winding this down.”
The motion was passed with only Coun. David Chesney voting against it.
“I was opposed to this from the very beginning,” he noted earlier in the meeting. “Staff said don’t do it, police said don’t do it, (the fire department) said don’t do it.”
A motion from Manning, also passed by a majority with Chesney and Coun. Helen Fathers voting against it, effectively suspended his original addendum to the one-way decision in May – that it would immediately end once provincial authorities allowed a return to full capacity in restaurants.
Instead the motion formally instructed staff, at chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero’s request, to take no action to remove the one-way barriers, pending a decision at the next meeting.
Only proviso was that staff investigate removing some unused barriers on East Beach to provide additional loading areas for businesses, such as the Marine Drive Liquor Store, which have been hampered in receiving deliveries.
Notable among East Beach business owners speaking in support of the one-way were Cathy Spenser of Zapoteca Mexican Grill and Seafood and Holly Valentine of Holly’s Poultry in Motion.
“This is working for Zapoteca because we chose to participate in it,” Spenser said, noting that summer visitors appreciate the extra patio space, and adding that in the three weeks of patio operation the restaurant had experienced its highest weekly sales totals since 2018.
Valentine said that while she had delayed setting up a patio space so far due to uncertainty over how provincial restrictions would change, she was prepared to participate fully in the measure.
“I think it’s a great thing,”she said. I’d like to see us going forward with it.”
More typical of reactions was Sean Montgomery of Montgomery’s Cottage Lunch, who said that, since the establishment of the one-way “we’ve had a thumb put on us – we’re down 30 to 40 per cent in business and we’re getting negative feedback from customers that it’s inconvenient to come down here and that it’s hard to access.”
Charlene Phillips of the Sandcastle Sea Shoppe and Ice Cream Parlour said her June sales had been down 40 per cent, noting that businesses like hers rely on 12 weeks of summer trade “to make any kind of profit.”
“We need the barriers gone and we need them gone immediately,” she said. “There’s no time for fine-tuning or asking ‘will this work?’”