Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ellice Liquor Store

Ellice Liquor Store

Ellice Liquor Across from Centrepoint
The schism between urban and suburban has been growing for many years now. Politically, culturally and economically the differences are becoming easier to see and harder to reconcile.

The war between urban and suburban is played out in the anonymous comment section of the Free Press and CBC every day. A lot of those comments have to be tossed because they amount to personal attacks or cross into intolerance based on any number of factors.

In addition, the limited amount of characters of Twitter are ideal for snark and it is generally easy to heckle and be boorish when done anonymously.

What is generally seen in regards to suburban commentary on urban areas is that people there are all scumbags and criminals. The urban commentary generally runs along the lines that suburban people are selfish users and takers.

Thoughtful commentary is often shunned for one liners.

The fact of the matter is that if a city is to function well, all of it has be to considered not just one tiny corner of it. The solution isn't to just keep fleeing farther and farther till the city reaches provincial borders. Nor is the solution to bulldoze large swaths of the city to create some sort of doughnut hole.

That is not to say that some bulldozing can't, shouldn't and won't happen. While some mourn the loss of the Wagon Wheel restaurant, the objective of a higher density mixed use land covering almost one block is excellent. The fact of the matter is the block in question has been under utilized the last decades despite some private efforts, specifically when it comes to the hotel/A&B Sound/MTS Exhibition Hall.

Long standing businesses shut down such Discreet Boutique or moved like Wild Planet. The complaint of their owners and those of Kraut King about aggressive street life was that it was driving them out. Happy to report that the former Kraut King location at 295 Garry Street is impressing as the Famena's Famous Roti/Curry and even out of town guests are writing glowing reviews.

But look what is just down the street from Famena's...

Famena's Famous Roti-Curry
The Garrick Hotel's clients are generally on the sidewalk out front most likely as a result of the smoking laws.

This little block seems to struggle. Sonar Night Club shut down and is now a gay club called Fame. Aqua Books shut down. A few storefronts remain stubbornly vacant.

Connection to Garrick? Think many would say it is.

For this reason, CentreVenture has been on a crusade to rid the downtown of small drinking establishment based out of hotels. They have bought a few over the years and that process has accelerated with the construction around the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

I have no problem with confronting drinking establishments that cause trouble. If you have murders inside or outside the establishment, chances are you need to look at how things are run. And it doesn't have to be down and out dive bars. It could be nightclubs that attract a bad element along with its regular crowd. It could be hotels, it could be sports facilities.

Public drunkenness and aggressive panhandling can't be ignored and there does seem to be more patrols on the street to address this issue. However, the police in the city have been lukewarm on community work and still favour cruiser cars.

This is what one retired city cop had to say:

The problem was, general patrol (the officers in cars), considered the ownership officers glorified social workers and would not only avoid having anything to do with them, but would resist helping out when transportation of a drunk was needed, or the transportation of an arrested person or just any kind of assistance.
Was it just me who felt this? No. When we got together, all 20 of us had occasion to run into resistance from our sergeants and from general patrol (there were a few exceptions)
At the end of the day, crime and the perception that downtown is unsafe will die down if the police foot patrol is constantly there, always watching, always ready to stop a crime, move a drunk to the tanks, arrest an assailant.
That is pretty harsh stuff. Officer needs assistance being ignored due to the fact they think he is a social worker?

The work has been handed over to cadets as kind of a way to earn your stripes to police constable and a car. And perhaps this is the cheaper way to do it. Still, you wonder if there is strong value in having ground coverage for problem areas by the Winnipeg Police Service itself in a meaningful way.

Serious questions are mounting about the costs of policing and the promises that crime will drop for every 50 officers hired.

The amount of overtime, ticket quotas and higher crime respective to the rest of the country gives people pause. I am no expert in policing but hearing some officers say they didn't feel supported seems to indicate a conflict inside the organization.

Which brings us back to the Ellice Liquor Store. Is this store the source of problems in the area? And by this I mean: Is the store itself a source of public drunkenness and panhandling?

I can't answer that. I don't know. I won't go into the greater issues of alcohol, poverty and homelessness. My question is more specific: is this store the cause of trouble surrounding the area or it is a mere inconvenience for a nice new development across the street?

If the answer is yes, the store is the source of the first answer not to serve intoxicated customers, patrol the parking lot and seek assistance from police in ensuring public security?

The Ellice Liquor Store, celebrated in song by a ska group in the last years along with the Royal Albert Hotel, has a small parking lot that seems to serve downtown commuters intent on quick service. This cannot be fulfilled by Cityplace with a mall location. Likewise, there are many apartments and condos going up in the area who probably might find things like a local liquor store convenient.

It is a fine balancing act that CentreVenture does but it is worth remembering that Osborne Village has had its share of ups and downs but the liquor mart was not driven out. The client base changed over the years and the location there reveals a full realized neighbourhood with grocery, drug marts and liquor store for the community.

Centrepoint under construction. Liquor just north
Kudos to the Longboat and Artis for their investment across from the MTS Centre. The offices of Stantec Engineering, the Alt Hotel, Glasshouse Condos, parkade and restaurants Milestone's and Chino Libre are going to be the biggest thing to hit Portage Avenue in decades.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves by clearing out places like the Ellice Liquor Store before seeing how one development interacts with established businesses.

Downtown Winnipeg will be won over one block at a time. Some of it will be organic such as Famena's carving out a home on Garry Street. Other times, it will be a development like Centrepoint transforming a larger area.  Let's give it all careful consideration as we proceed. But while we do it, let's make sure we have the people on the ground to ensure security and civility.

What makes you feel safer, a police car headed west down Portage Avenue or two patrols walking down the street? If the answer is the latter, should that not be what we are doing more of?


ConcernedAboutWinnipeg said...

I am an area resident, I am a professional engineer, and I live a stone's throw away from the Ellice Liquor Mart (north of Ellice). The liquor store is not the problem, and even if it were, they could avoid half of the problems by not selling king cans, plastic bottles of Stone Cold, or cheap sherry.

Those of us who live in the core area want a convenient place to buy liquor, and shutting down the Ellice Liquor Mart will not reduce public drunkenness.

Anonymous said...

That Ellice store is a complete clown factory. There is a liquor store a block & a half away (in City Place). There is no need for the Ellice Ave. goof making machine.