The Antis at Sunset Point

ChipperThere are always those who don’t want change. Any change upsets them. Anything that’s new, different, exciting, challenging or just unusual bothers them and want it stopped. They want a steady state, where nothing happens, nothing changes, nothing is new. Stop growth, stop development, stop change.

Some of them are the ‘last in’ crowd – the recent arrivals who don’t want any more newcomers because newcomers will change things, and they will change the reasons the ‘last-in’ group came here. They want to be the last ones to arrive and to shut the door after themselves. They want things to remain as they were when they arrived.

Some are long-time residents who think the world should have stopped in the 80s when the shipyards were still operating. They don’t like what Collingwood has become since then. They don’t like having more than one phone exchange. They don’t like homes on the waterfront. They don’t like turning lanes on First Street. They don’t like having Thai, Japanese or Indian food restaurants because they’re too ‘foreign’. They want time to freeze and things to stop changing so damned fast. If it was good enough for their grandparents, it should be good enough for the rest of us.

And some are simply antis – people who are anti-everything. Anti-anything they didn’t think of first. Everyone else’s ideas are bad and they will protest them, write petitions, send letters, complain on social media

And some of these folks live at Sunset Point, across from the park. Last term these Antis protested the upgrades to Sunset Point Park – upgrades that made it more attractive and safer. They claimed the upgrades would reduce the amount of green space (grass cover), although the landscape architect made a presentation showing the upgrades would actually increase grass cover. They didn’t like the new sidewalk aimed at reducing traffic conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians because, well just because. They didn’t want the dreary old washroom/ice cream stall building to be upgraded, cleaned up and improved. They didn’t want a restaurant there with a patio. They didn’t want to encourage outsiders to use the park.

Go to Sunset Point any warm summer weekend and it’s packed with people. Visitors love to come there for a picnic. Buses arrive. Families gather. Kids and dogs play. People swim. It’s lively, exciting, fun. Plus the new restaurant is busy and successful, with its patio packed. Visitors love it. So do a lot of residents.

Sunset Point Antis hate it. They want it to be their park, and theirs only. They don’t want anything done to the park, even safety upgrades, without their permission. They don’t like anyone else’s success. And they most certainly don’t want to encourage any more visitors to use their park. “Keep out of our park,” they moan.

So what if this is a tourist town, so what if our economy depends heavily on visitors, on people enjoying themselves, having a good time, having good experiences and good recreational and dining? The Antis just don’t want them here. Why, they ask, should outsiders have a good time, when they come here?

I received a copy of a letter recently sent to the town by the Antis, protesting the application for a liquor licence for the restaurant patio at Sunset Point Park. My copy was unsigned. It lists ten points of opposition which I will address individually below.

1. As the Town of Collingwood owns the Sunset Point snack bar, supporting a liquor licence would be putting Collingwood into the liquor business.

Comment: Nope. The town is not the applicant, the business owner is and the town would not be in the liquor business. The situation is the same when any group has a licensed event on town property. And it’s the same situation with regard to licensed patios downtown. It’s the same at the Curling Club or the Elvis beer garden.

2. Having alcohol for sale in a public park has the potential of attracting undesirable people and make Sunset Point comparable to Wasaga Beach with its rowdyism groups from outside the region.

Comment: Straight from the Donald Trump school of rabidly xenophobic outsider-bashing. First, alcohol is already available in public spaces at many events, such as the Taste of the Town, which doesn’t attract “rowdyism” from Wasaga Beach. (Why Wasaga Beach is singled out I cannot say…. why not mention other popular vacation sports like Grand Bend? Port Dover? Bala? Blue Mountain? And what is a ‘rowdyism group’ anyway?). Second, the alcohol would not be for sale in the park, but on a patio. This is no different from alcohol for sale in any nearby licensed restaurant or pub  or downtown patio. Who are these “undesirables” – aside from the families and adults who already use the park for their enjoyment?

3. Ontario regulations prohibit the open consumption of alcoholic drinks in public parks. Also, liquor licences are not allowed in residential areas such as Sunset Point.

Comment: Nope. Special occasion Permits have long been available for events in parks and other public spaces. And the application isn’t for a permit in a residential area. There are already dozens of pubs and restaurants in town in and adjacent to residential areas (think: downtown). Clearly the author has never been to Europe, where local pubs have long been scattered throughout residential areas without causing the moral decay of their host nations.

4. Limiting sales to wine and beer is not permanent as the next step would be a full scale liquor application.

Comment: Irrelevant. This Temperance Union approach is simply emotional not logical. What the vendors choose to sell has nothing to do with whether a type of liquor is good or bad. Can one logically say that a fine cognac at $20 a glass is worse or more likely to lead to “rowdyism” than an inexpensive beer at $5? If the vendor has a market for upscale drinks, why not allow it? Under the law, the vendor has to make sure customers are served responsibly, the customers are of age and behave, and that applies to every licensed establishment in town.

5. Limiting the alcohol consumption to the snack bar area would be impossible to enforce without an unwelcome police presence.

Comment: Codswallop. Every other licensed establishment deals with the same rules and restrictions without requiring police. Patios downtown are licensed. Do they invite “rowdyism” from Wasaga Beach to our downtown and create an “unwelcome police presence” to enforce people staying within the patio boundaries? Nope. Ontario’s updated liquor laws allow people to roam around in public spaces with drinks during special events or in some cases in special areas. So far, this has not caused the collapse of civilization nor an outbreak of “rowdyism” across the province.

6. Use of the public washroom by drinking snack bar customers is not compatible with the washroom use by the many youngsters attending the Sunset Point day camp.

Comment: More irrelevance. Many family restaurants in town are licensed, including numerous popular chain restaurants and franchises. These have washroom facilities used by adults as well as children. In many other countries, fast food places like McDonald’s and KFC serve alcohol. Starbucks is starting to serve alcohol in Canada. Airports across Canada have licensed bars. All of them have washroom facilities shared by adults and youngsters. Is the urine of a beer or wine drinker somehow poisonous or infectious? Do children become alcoholics by standing beside a beer drinker peeing?

7. Stating local Sunset Point resident support for liquor licence is misleading as, if they want a drink, most residents would prefer to have it at their homes in more enjoyable surroundings.

Comment: Misleading and disingenuous. The author has no data to support any such claims about “most” residents’ preferences or drinking habits. This is simply a subjective opinion about a personal preference and not backed by evidence. And the park is clearly considered “enjoyable surroundings” by the thousands of visitors as well as many locals – why does the author believe the park is not equally enjoyable to nearby residents? Also, nearby residents have the option of walking home to have a meal or drink. Visitors, including those of us from other neighbourhoods, do not have that option. Is there any qualitative difference to driving downtown for a drink on a hot afternoon instead of staying in the park? Doesn’t that create more traffic, more greenhouse gases and more congestion?

8. Claiming that many Chip Wagon patrons support a liquor licence through a petition is not valid as the signers are already committed to buying chips, have been offered free chips for signing and are mainly visitors.

Comment: Again, disingenuous and not backed up by any factual evidence. However, since visitors are the majority of the park’s users on summer weekends, it is only reasonable to expect them to be among the majority of petitioners. Finally, although the business was a chip wagon before the restaurant was upgraded, it is misleading to described it as such now, since that name does not reflect the establishment (it is known simply as The Chipper now). Since when does one one have to be “committed to buying chips” in order to support a business proposition? Not to mention the restaurant sells a wider selection of popular foods than just chips.

9. As no other chip wagon in Ontario has a liquor licence, it is not appropriate for the Sunset Point facility to have liquor licence.

Comment: Disingenuous. The application is not for a mobile truck but for a patio attached to a building in which a restaurant operates. But food trucks have already been licensed in Ontario and there may be more in future. There is a Wine Truck already travelling around the province. The Turkish Taco food truck in Toronto was licensed in 2011. While that is not the application here, licensing of food trucks is the jurisdiction of the province, not the town.

10. As having a liquor licence would be a significant change in the Chip Wagon operations. the Sunset Point franchise should be put up for a new open tender.

Comment: First, this is not a franchise, but a locally-owned and operated business. Second, it is not a mobile food truck, but a restaurant with a patio. What evidence does the writer have that small-volume liquor sales on an attached patio will be a “significant change” in operations? This is another purely personal opinion, not a fact. And why should a liquor licence require a new tender? That is illogical and punitive – no downtown restaurant or bar was required to tender to open a licensed patio on town property when given that opportunity.

In short, this letter is full of bias, misleading statements and opinion. It is very short on fact. This codswallop we can assume is based solely the writer’s personal dislike of visitors and local business. This is simply NIMBYism.

It also espouses a patronizingly Puritanical attitude about alcohol. Adults do not have to be supervised every minute when they drink, like errant children. Countries with more mature attitudes about alcohol have not sunken into the ocean because they let adults enjoy a beer outside.*

Sadly, since the Antis, although a small group, were strong backers of several who were recently elected to council, they will likely have support at the table to oppose this application. After all, this council has already proven itself the most vehemently anti-business council in decades.


* In the past decade, I have personally sat outside with a beer or glass of wine on patios in Ottawa, Toronto, London (Ontario and England), St. Jacobs, Stratford, Thornbury and even Collingwood, and on beaches and patios in Mexico. I have never once succumbed to rowdyism either alone, in company, nor suffered it at the hands of perambulating Wasaga Beach-ites. Why only a couple of weeks ago, Susan and I were enjoying a beer on a patio in Kensington market and nary a rowdy, let alone a Beach-ite, was to be seen all afternoon.

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