Surrey wants an end to RCMP plans for a liquor licence for its new headquarters in Green Timbers Urban Forest.
On Monday, Surrey council considered a liquor application by E-Division for its mess hall. Council said it will recommend the Mounties be eligible for special events permits only, and do away with plans for regular bar hours.
The public reacted angrily and swiftly after the media, including The Leader, reported last week that the RCMP’s new $263-million headquarters in Green Timbers Urban Forest would include a fully licensed 500-seat mess hall capable of serving up to 1,200 people.
Political will at the local level was lagging on Monday, and before the meeting, the proverbial writing was on the wall – the RCMP would not get council support for a police pub.
Surrey’s mayor said she didn’t like the idea of a full bar at the RCMP headquarters.
“I don’t think anyone has an issue if you have a regimental dinner, or if you have a party for veterans or retirement,” Mayor Dianne Watts said before the council meeting. “I think the other piece (the permanent pub), they need to have a look at that.”
However, as a senior level of government, the Mounties don’t need Surrey’s permission in the first place.
Some councillors felt the application came forward as a measure of goodwill with the city.
Coun. Marvin Hunt was amazed to see the application on the city’s agenda.
“Why is it even before us?” Hunt said Monday afternoon. “I have a sneaking suspicion that this shouldn’t be on the agenda whatsoever.
“I’ve never heard before of the federal government ever asking the local government’s permission to get a provincial government licence.
“The reality is, they can do whatever they want because they’re the federal government,” Hunt said.
RCMP Cpl. Bernie Conroy told The Leader Friday the hall would be used for other purposes than just a bar, including regimental dinners and veterans’ celebrations.
He also noted a bar currently exists at RCMP headquarters in Vancouver (which is moving to Green Timbers).
“Currently, the mess in Vancouver is open from about 3:30 (p.m.) to about 8 o’clock at night,” Conroy said, adding there are tight controls around alcohol consumption.
And if someone has had too much, officers can use a safe ride program where Mounties can take a taxi home for free.
Conroy also notes that the mess hall and safe ride program is paid for entirely by the RCMP membership dues, much like a legion hall.
Surrey council wasn’t sold on the idea.
Coun. Barinder Rasode said mess halls have been a long-standing tradition in the military and RCMP, but notes it may be time for that tradition to die.
“As we know with changing times, those traditions change,” Rasode said. “I think now its time for the RCMP to evaluate that.”