Saddled by what it calls an unwieldy process, the Elmira Junior B hockey team has shut down its Blue Line Club, the licensed area at Sugar King home games.
Longstanding practices at the old Elmira Arena have been curtailed by township staff at the new Woolwich Memorial Centre. Cumbersome rules surrounding the storage and handling of liquor and beer – the team acquires a special occasion permit for each game – prompted the Kings to wrap up the Blue Line Club last Sunday.
Where the team had previously locked away beer and liquor in a storage area at the old arena, organizers have been forced to haul the supplies in and out of the building for each game. Under the terms of the liquor permit, the team is also required to bring in only new bottles of liquor each time. Those rules, now being enforced by the township, make offering the licensed area too much work and even threaten profitability, said Dave Romminger, a team director who organizes the Blue Line Club.
“They’re dotting their Is and crossing their Ts, following the letter of the law,” he said of the township. “We’ve been operating this way since the ’70s, but they don’t want us doing that anymore.”
The club will remain on hold until a solution is reached with the township, perhaps through the implementation of a permanent liquor licence for the facility.
For its part, the township said it’s not trying to hinder the Kings, but is simply enforcing the rules.
“We became aware of the practice, so we notified them of our concerns,” said Larry Devitt, Woolwich’s director of recreation and facilities, noting the move to the new facility brought the issue to light.
He is open to the idea of licensing the building, but that would require a study by staff and approval by council.
“Should we go the route of licensing the facility, we would have to look at the impact on our process there, our staffing and liability issues.”
Team president Jeff Seddon said this week he will be talking to the township about the licensing option, noting each special occasion permit costs $75, while covering the facility with a standing licence would cost $1,000 a year.
While not really a money maker for the team, the Blue Line Club offers a service to some of the fans, acting as an extra attraction, said Romminger, adding having alcohol available provides better control than leaving people to their own devices.
If all goes well with the township, he hopes to have the club back in operation in the new year.
“We’re just trying to have everybody happy.”
The timing will depend on how long it takes to get a report together, with special attention to liability issues, said Devitt. Because of those concerns, council will want to see detailed information.
Both Romminger and Seddon noted the Kings have always provided insurance coverage for the licensed events they hold, and would be prepared to continue that arrangement if a standing liquor permit is acquired.
“We’ve got all our own insurance for the Blue Line Club, and for any dances or other functions we have,” said Romminger. “We’re happy to keep doing that.”
While the licensing is being figured out, the township hopes to resolve a technical problem with a large rollup door that was to serve the area set aside for the Blue Line Club. The door remains out of service because a lack of safety devices prevents it from being approved for use. Woolwich is working with the contractor to have the issue resolved, Devitt explained.