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Corner store closes in on licence

Meeting hears support for plan to sell wine alongside slushies

A convenience store that doubles as a cafe in Pemberton Heights is one step closer to selling alcohol alongside penny candies and slushies.

At a public hearing on Tuesday, Tracey Cochrane, owner of The Corner Store on Lloyd Avenue, asked District of North Vancouver councillors to support her application for a food primary liquor license, which would allow her to prepare food on site and serve alcohol. Cochrane said she had significant support from Pemberton Heights residents, pointing to the 550 signatures she had gathered in favour of the change.

Selling alcohol would help "to get this store sustainable, so it can continue to serve the community without the constant risk of closing," she said.

Pemberton Heights residents who were at the meeting spoke of The Corner Store's importance as a social space in the suburban community.

A liquor license would "allow those of us with children to be able to have a glass of wine and to watch our kids play hopscotch, which is a very special thing," said resident Sheena Capozzi. "It allows us to meet up with friends after the kids have gone to bed and to be close enough within our neighbourhood for young babysitters to get a chance . . . They're not asking for a bar, just a way of increasing their bottom line."

Herman Mah noted that the store sells healthy muffins and veggie chips, it declines to sell certain lucrative items that might not be as good for the community.

"(You) can't buy cigarettes. (You) can't buy lottery tickets," said Mah. "Those products aren't illegal, so to me it shows that Tracey and Ian do things that are good for the community, not just to make a quick buck."

But not everyone was in favour of allowing alcohol sales at the community store. A Lloyd Avenue resident who identified herself as Ms. Ranah had concerns about noise and property damage, as well as increasing property taxes and declining real estate values.

"Yes, The Corner Store is a social epicenter of our community," said Ranah. "But over the previous years, we've had numerous RCMP calls made by my father."

The loss of corner stores concerns the District of North Vancouver. District staff have been working with convenience stores to allow some rezoning that lets them diversify their businesses, explained Jennifer Patton, manager of development planning for the city.

"We worked with corner store owners to find something that would work a little better, something that was a little bit out of the box and kind of a bit more of a community gathering place," said Patton. "This store has been very successful at that."

Cochrane applied for a zoning change five years ago to sell prepared food, and the business has operated as part convenience store, part café for five years. Selling muffins and coffee has provided a vital boost to her business.

District staff are recommending that the store only be allowed to sell alcohol until 9 p.m, and that the change be closely monitored.

Council will vote on whether to support the application at its next meeting July 23.

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