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Uptown Live 2024: Bye-bye beer gardens, hello site-wide licensing

New West council supports Uptown Live’s bid to be deemed as a “municipally significant” event.
Uptown Live 7
New hours and new site-wide licensing are part of the plans for Uptown Live 2024.

The City of New Westminster supports a bid to declare Uptown Live as an event of municipal significance.

In a report to council, city staff said the Uptown Business Association, which produces the annual Uptown Live street festival, is seeking to have the festival declared as having municipal significance. The city will forward a resolution in support of this application to the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB).

Uptown Live is taking place on Saturday, July 27 from 4 to 9:30 p.m. in and around the Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street intersection. This year’s performers include The Funk Hunters, Side One, Sambacouver, Andrew Allen, Phil-Bo, Jodie B, Ben Parker & Phoenix Laurén, Leo D.E Johnson, John Welsh, and DJ A-Slam. 

Coun. Ruby Campbell expressed support for the resolution, noting that council has discussed ways of supporting local businesses and organizations that are putting on events.

“I just wanted to applaud the organization and city staff for finding a potential solution to help this organization who has been putting on the Uptown Live for 13 years. … I look forward to supporting another lively Uptown Live,” she said.

According to a staff report, Uptown Live requires additional revenue to continue to produce the event at no cost to the community while providing economic and tourism benefits and contributing to a sense of community belonging.

The report said Uptown Live had previously been licensed to sell liquor under special event permits issued by the LCRB, with service taking place in beer gardens. This year it’s taking advantage of the city’s site-wide licensing.

“This allows patrons to walk around the site, visit vendor booths and participate in other activities without being contained to a beer garden,” said the report. “As a result, they have hired a professional bartending service and increased security to ensure a safe, family-friendly event, which comes at an added cost.”

The municipal significance designation allows organizers to sell liquor products at a higher price than what’s permitted with a special events permit, said the report to council.

The staff report stated each municipality can set its own criteria in determining whether an event is of municipal significance. It noted that LCRB policy states that municipally significant events are of unique importance to a specific municipality, such as those having historical value or providing economic or tourism benefits to the community.

The Uptown Business Association feels its event, which is reported on through traditional and social media and through the musical acts’ promoters and fans, fits the criteria for being an event of municipal significance, said the staff report.

The city concurs.

“The event has a 13-year demonstration of promoting the local music and entertainment scene, attracts spectators from around the region and supports local tourism, and has economic spinoff to the local business community through the inclusion of local businesses and vendors,” said the report.

Last spring, council approved a motion in support of declaring the New Westminster Salmonbellies Senior A Lacrosse Club games to be of “municipal significance” and forwarded a resolution to the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch. The designation allowed the club to sell liquor products that are packaged in a can larger than the standard size allowed by the province, at a cost above the price maximum set by the LCRB.

According to a staff report, the increase in costs to produce events and festivals has resulted in many municipalities in the region receiving requests for these designations.

“Some have drafted policies to allow staff to determine if an event qualifies using a decision-making matrix,” said the report. “The City of New Westminster does not have pre-determined criteria in which staff could use to evaluate the request.”

At its June 24 meeting, council also approved a recommendation directing staff to develop a policy and decision-making matrix that staff may use to evaluate future municipally significant event designation requests. Staff will bring a draft to council for review in the third quarter of 2024.