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Zoned out 

Quinpool restaurants want to change a zoning law that prohibits serving alcohol without food. Michael Fleury takes a sip.

The Nail and Kneecap on Quinpool Road looks like a pub. It acts like a pub. It even has the word “pub” written on its awning. But as manager Shari Calder knows, it’s impossible open a traditional pub on Quinpool Road.

“That’s why we’re a pub-style restaurant,” explains Calder. “You can’t have a drink without having something to eat.”

City zoning laws prohibit bars and restaurants on Quinpool Road from obtaining a lounge license. As a result, customers aren’t allowed to order alcohol unless they also order food. The prohibited license also puts restrictions on business hours, hosting live entertainment and installing video lottery terminals.

“Obviously, we would like if people could just come in, sit down, and have a beer,” says Calder. “We’d like people on their way to the movies to stop in and have a drink. Or have a glass of wine if they’ve already gone to eat somewhere, for a nightcap. That’s all we’re looking for.”

Brian Smart is also hoping for more freedom when it comes to serving alcohol. Smart is the manager of Quincy’s on Quinpool, another restaurant affected by a limited license. In December, Quincy’s made a formal request to city council asking for the right to serve drinks to customers who are waiting for a table.

“So far, we’ve only made an effort to re-zone our specific location,” says Smart. “But if the city decided to change the law along the entire street, we certainly wouldn’t be opposed.”

Two businesses on Quinpool—Freeman’s Little New York and The Holiday Inn—aren’t affected by the zoning law. The law that prohibits lounge licenses on Quinpool didn’t exist until the 1980s, and both businesses pre-date the regulation. Because zoning laws aren’t retroactive, both businesses can keep their lounge license as long as they remain open in the same location.

Sheila Fougere is the councillor for Quinpool Road. She says that it might be time to reexamine some of the more strict zoning laws that are in place along Quinpool.

At Quincy’s, “they don’t want to change their hours of operation, they don’t want to have live bands until three in the morning, they just want to have a neighborhood restaurant where people could go and have a glass of wine if they felt like it,” she says, “or if they had somebody to sing or play piano of a Friday or Saturday night, they could do that as well.”

Before going to city council, the Quincy’s request was reviewed by a group of city planners. The city planners recommended that city council deny the request, a recommendation unanimously defeated by council.

“The planning people were concerned about an individual application,” says Fougere. “They said, ‘This will open the door for everyone on the street.’ Well, hey, there’s nothing wrong with opening doors! Zoning is supposed to reflect each individual neighbourhood and what people want in their area, and I think this kind of application is appropriate for Quinpool Road.”

Now that it has been initially approved, the Quincy’s proposal is being reviewed more thoroughly by the city. After a formal review is completed and a public information meeting is held, the issue will come back to council for another vote.

“It’s a long process,” says Smart. “We expect it to take a maximum of 18 months. But we’ll stick with it; customers and neighbors on the street are asking for something more like a lounge, and we think it’s fitting that we should have one—especially seeing as how other people on the street already do.”

In the meantime, others on Quinpool, like Shari Calder, will be watching the process carefully. “Ultimately, we wouldn’t do anything too differently. We’ll serve our food, we’ll keep the same hours—we’re not looking to be open till four in the morning or anything,” she says. “But if they get theirs, we’ll be getting on that train too.”

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