Riverway Golf Course aims for liquor licence change

If Riverway Golf Course gets its Class A liquor licence, golfers will be able to buy a beer and take it with them on the course. - NEWSLEADER FILE
If Riverway Golf Course gets its Class A liquor licence, golfers will be able to buy a beer and take it with them on the course.
— image credit: NEWSLEADER FILE

While the City of Vancouver is making the news for proposing to sell alcohol on the greens of its public golf courses, don't expect Burnaby to follow suit anytime soon, says Burnaby's manager of golf operations.

The type of liquor licence Vancouver is seeking, Class A, is actually quite commonplace at the region's golf courses, said David O'Connor.

In fact, Burnaby Mountain Golf Course already has one, and last summer the city applied to amend its liquor licence at Riverway Golf Course to add a Class A extension. It's currently awaiting a decision by the provincial Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

If approved, golfers at Riverway would be allowed to buy a beer at the snack bar or cafe and take it with them on the greens, as they're allowed to now at Burnaby Mountain. "It just gives the customer more flexibility to enjoy his refreshment."

At Vancouver's civic courses, golfers can already buy beer at the halfway house, said O'Connor. "I think [Vancouver is] just looking at every opportunity that they could have the flexibility to develop maybe more cash flow and also maybe add or enhance the experience."

But O'Connor is not at all sold on the idea of a beverage cart operating on the course itself, if only because anyone partaking would slow down all the golfers behind them.

"It's like the highway, right, somebody touches the brakes and everybody has to. We're in the green fee business. Having a pace of play is something we take very seriously."

He estimated that five per cent of Burnaby's customers might be interested in buying a beer on the fairway. "That means with us that would be 15 people and the other 285 behind them aren't that interested. We just have to go with the percentages."

While most resorts and golf courses in the Lower Mainland and Whistler have Class A licences, most don't have such beverage carts because of the lack of potential for sales.

"All you're doing is taking sales away from your snack bar and halfway. And you're doubling your labour and you've got a heavy cart you have to purchase for $12,000."

O'Connor said he can see a place for on-course alcohol sales during special event tournaments where the only people on the course are event participants and they're all on power carts for the occasion.

Even then, it would be more cost effective to set up a beverage stand out on the course instead of purchasing and operating a special beverage cart, which would also add wear and tear to the course itself, he said.

The Class A application for Riverway would apply to part of the clubhouse and the old cafe building, and they would retain its main food primary licence.

"In the old days, the '80s, most clubhouses were 70 per cent liquor sales and 30 per cent food but in this day and age it's the other way around," he said. "The days are gone when the boys are sitting in there having a number of jugs and heading out. That doesn't happen anymore."

Never mind that people can slow down the pace of play because the more beer they drink the worse they play, and there are liability issues from people consuming too much alcohol on the course, he added.

Burnaby city hall hopes to get approval of its Class A extension for Riverway sometime in December after which it will look at all its options on how best to utilize it.

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