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Editorials

Books vs Booze

Thursday, August 21, 2014   by: David Root

I am heading out on a much-needed vacation, next week. Before I go, I thought I would post a few thoughts on a new “controversy”.

There is a tempest in a teacup over the news that the Restaurant-Bar in the Rhodes Centre will be removed, following the expiration of the current lease. The space will be renovated, and the Churchill Branch of the Public Library will be relocated into it.

According to some posters, we don’t need another library (the library exists, it is just being moved), and no one uses the library anyway.

Rest assured, all three libraries are well-used. I also doubt the City would consider relocating the Churchill Branch if there was not a need; if it were not being sufficiently used, they would likely just close it.

Some posters are upset that a local business is being shut down, and 12-15 staff will be put out of work. That is unfortunate. 

I read comments from people claiming that they will no longer be able to “mingle” with other parents while watching their kids play hockey. Not being a big hockey fan, I’m not sure how parents in the other arenas — McMeeken, Rankin, PeeWee — manage to mingle, but I would guess they manage just fine.

I can agree that having a food concession of some sort — be it a proper restaurant or merely a snack bar — would be nice. But I am not, nor have I ever been, convinced that a bar was appropriate inside a municipal community centre.

There are plenty of licensed establishments — bars, taverns, restaurants — for those who wish to imbibe. I don’t see that the City should be landlord for such an establishment.

I also see a long-term savings for the City by consolidating the library within the existing facility, in much the same way as the Korah Branch was included in the new West End Community Centre.

A brief internet search located a number of municipalities that include libraries in their municipal facilities — gymnasiums, pools, arenas. Often the departments running these facilities are called Parks & Recreation, or Recreation and Culture.

To me, it’s a good fit. These facilities are no longer just arenas or pooks or gyms. They are Community Centres, a place where people of all ages and interests can gather.

I understand those who have become accustomed to having this restaurant-bar within the Rhodes believe that was a good fit. Again, I do think having some sort of food concession is both convenient and practical. I am not convinced that establishment needs to be licensed to serve alcohol.

I’ve taken a lot of heat in the response section of that particular story, but Im not taking it personally. We are all entitled to our opinions, and to express them. A healthy dialogue is always appropriate.

One caveat I would mention, though, is that public opinion cannot be gauged by such forums.

In general, it is more often people with strong opinions - for or against - who participate in these forums. Typically, far more people will read an article without leaving a comment.

There have been occasions when comments left following some of my columns that have stated that there was an overwhelming expression of disagreement with my point of view.

The fact is that of the comments that were posted, the vast majority did disagree with me. But given the number of people who actually read the article, those who actually post are relatively few in number.

It is the same with all the columns and article. Those who take the time to post are relatively few in number, as compared to the total number of readers.

As for the Books vs Booze debate, there are a lot of comments predicting that as a result people will stop using the Rhodes, and people will move away from the Sault. 

I doubt either scenario will pan out, and that people are just letting their emotions come to the forefront.

The sports will go on. Young people will not leave, at least, not because of this.

There have been some who have even suggested that decisions such as this are why the Sault is not growing.

This puzzles me.

It’s not that I don’t drink, although as a Driving Instructor I must maintain a zero blood-alcohol level any time I am driving — not just while Instructing.

Even before becoming an Instructor, I made a decision that when I go to a restaurant, if I am driving, I do not drink alcohol. But that is my decision.

Other than when I was in my late teens and early twenties, drinking has not been a significant part of my lifestyle, and even then I was a moderate drinker.

I enjoy the occasional good imported or craft beer, or a wee dram of Scotch.

I know that others will have a drink or two, and that the vast majority of patrons drink responsibly.

But what puzzles me isn’t that people want to drink, but that the impending closure of just one licensed establishment should evoke such an emotional response from so many people. 

Why would people suggest that our lack of growth, and the exodus of young people, is due to the closing of just one establishment?

Perhaps our culture of drinking, locally, is more prevalent than I realize. 

However, given the outrage that is expressed following the report of a driver being arrested for DUI, I would think that people have moderated their consumption, for the most part.

That the loss of one establishment should evoke such an outcry surprises me.

There are people decrying the cost of this relocation, an estimated $1.5 million. Keep in mind, this includes the removal of the bar and kitchen.

There will be a longer-term savings in having the Library under a municipally-owned roof. I don’t know how much the rent was for the Churchill Branch, but it was the only non-City-owned location.

I suspect, in the long run, this will be another issue that fades away. Life will go on. Sports will be played, and people will enjoy themselves. 

Who knows… maybe more people will discover the Library — and that today’s library is more than just stacks of mouldy old books.

 

But… that’s just my opinion.

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