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West Van welcomes breweries and distilleries

After missing out on the craft beer revolution, West Van is ready to allow local brews again.
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Jason and Alayne MacIsaac work in the Sheringham Distillery in Sooke on Vancouver Island, in April 2019. West Vancouver is now considering allowing craft breweries and distilleries. | Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

Banks, no. Breweries, yes.

District of West Vancouver council has ordered up a flight of zoning bylaw changes intended to add a jolt of vibrancy to local streets, including allowing breweries, distilleries and wineries to open up shop.

Canada’s craft beer revolution arguably started in West Vancouver but, due to a lack of light-industrial zoning, it is one of the only municipalities in the Lower Mainland today without a local brew of its own. Horseshoe Bay Brewing opened in 1982 in a garage across the lane from the Troller Pub. It closed in 2000, but the founders went on to start other breweries that still exist today.

While some new (and fun) uses are being welcomed in commercial areas, others are being discouraged from taking up prime real estate in Horseshoe Bay, Dundarave and Ambleside. The bylaw changes will limit financial institutions, including banks and currency exchanges, real estate offices, and beauty and wellness businesses, including nail salons, to no more than 20 per cent of the length of the ground-level storefronts on any block.

The intent is to encourage a better mix of businesses that make for a more exciting streetscape.

At the same time, the district will allow beauty and barbershops as well as real estate sales to operate as home-based businesses, and give approval for artists to retail their works from home. Businesses that produce goods on site like bakeries and butcher shops will also be allowed to wholesale their products to other businesses.

And child-care business will be eligible to open in single-family homes that also have secondary suites, which was previously prohibited (up to a maximum of eight kiddos and only if the operator lives on site).

Many of the changes came at the request of the Ambleside and Dundarave Business Improvement Association, whose members promoted the ideas through their 2021 Imagine Ambleside process.

When it came to a public hearing on Tuesday (March 29), not a single resident or business owner called in, and council passed the bylaw changes with gusto.

“I think this is the beginning of some really good work,” said Coun. Craig Cameron, adding his thanks to staff for pulling the bylaw changes together so quickly. “Let's see how much more we can do to support our local businesses and make the economy more vibrant in West Vancouver and … attract a more diverse array of businesses – ones that are suitable for those of us who still want to have some fun after dark.”

Coun. Marcus Wong said he was particularly excited to see more homegrown businesses in the district.

“Having come out of COVID, I think a lot of folks are looking to still start their own business,” he said. “Hopefully this will spur on additional creativity, additional innovation for people to put food on the table without having to have the additional expense and commute, clogging traffic and all that sort of stuff. So I’m certainly very keen on that.”

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