Nightclub violence 'continuous battle' for Exchange District: city councillor

City councillor Vivian Santos wants a review of how Winnipeg issues occupancy permits to large nightclubs and says Manitoba's Liquor Gaming and Cannabis Authority can't manage inspections of these businesses.

Residents fed up with violence in downtown prompt calls for action

Police tape stretches across a sidewalk and street. Police markers can be seen on the road in the background.
Citizen Nightclub had its liquor licence suspended after a 23-year-old man was shot dead at the club in November. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

Point Douglas councillor Vivian Santos wants to see something done about downtown nightclubs that she says are disrupting those who live nearby.

On Monday, she asked property, planning and development committee for a review of how the city issues occupancy permits to large nightclubs.

There is also criticism of how Manitoba's Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority inspects big nightclubs and according to Santos, one resident has filed a complaint with the province's Ombudsman.

Santos says the violence, noise and rowdy behaviour over the last 14 months is a "continuous battle and issue for the Exchange District."

Point Douglas Coun. Vivian Santos says residents in the Exchange District have suffered through "continuous noise, shootings and swearing" on the streets. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

One man was found dead and another was shot in the lower body in November at the Citizen Nightclub, which is at the corner of Princess Street and Bannatyne Avenue.

The club has had its liquor licence suspended. Santos says the building's lease is on the market, but worries the next occupant will open another nightclub and the "continuous revolving door" of problems will return to the Exchange.

Residents are still angry and concerned, Santos told reporters Monday, after making a presentation to the city's property and planning committee.

Santos wants the city to consider changing the process large downtown nightclubs, which hold more than 200 patrons, go through to get an occupancy permit.

The area's councillor hopes anyone applying for an occupancy permit for a big club would be required to provide a business plan outlining safety and security procedures.

Santos hopes to get rules in place that would allow by-law officers to hold nightclub owners to the conditions they set out in their business plans or risk losing their occupancy permits.

She says Manitoba's Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority's inspectors are overburdened and ineffective in monitoring compliance with liquor licenses.

"There is continuous noise, shootings, and swearing [on the street]...and we can't wait for the LGCA anymore," Santos said.

"This is not an avenue I wanted to go on...but I have no choice."

A spokesperson for the LGCA provided a response Monday afternoon by email saying "the LGCA is not aware of an investigation by the Manitoba Ombudsman and would not be privy to complaints made to them."

The spokesperson says LGCA "escalated its oversight measures, including increasing the frequency and intensity of its inspections at the (Citizens Nightclub) premises and in its vicinity, and imposed additional terms and conditions on the nightclub."

The LGCA says those efforts include a licence suspension early in 2019, and a licence cancellation in late 2019 and to date, Citizen Nightclub's liquor licence remains cancelled.

The statement also says the LGCA has been working with Citizen Nightclub's owners (past and present), community residents, the local city councillor and the Winnipeg Police Service to assist in finding a solution to allegations of disorderly conduct and noise.