Wine season has arrived
Chelsea Powrie - 8:37 am - Biz Releases

Forget the groundhog. The surest sign of spring in the Okanagan is when wineries open their doors for the season and vineyards start pruning their vines to prepare for another year of grapes.

Over the past week, some Okanagan wineries have expanded to full-time spring hours in their tasting rooms after a long winter. Many others have planned openings in the coming week leading into April.

“People just come by,” said Kristen Thurlin, Dirty Laundry Vineyards hospitality manager. Dirty Laundry was open only on weekends over the winter, but as of Monday that changed to seven days a week.

“If the weather’s nice, sunny day out there, beautiful drive, I think everybody’s trying to get out of the house these days,” Thurlin said.

She said this time of year, when it’s not quite tourist season, is a good time to go visit wineries without the crowds.

“Great time of year for us to see our locals, we get a lot of local people that come in and say, ‘Oh it’s so nice and peaceful here right now, that’s why we’re here,'” Thurlin said.

Out in the fields of the vineyards, it’s a late start for those prepping the vines for spring growth.

“It was kind of an oddball winter. We had a late snowfall, some wacky temperatures and all that,” said Chris D’Angelo, winemaker at D’Angelo Estate Winery.

Vineyards around the Okanagan are pruning their vines this week as temperatures finally seem to have stabilized north of zero.

D’Angelo explained he is chopping his vines down to their buds, to allow them room to grow this spring and summer.

“So what happens is all the buds on the vines, they will swell up, they’ll get all fuzzy, and then you’ll have bud break,” D’Angelo said. “And bud break is when you see the green leafy tissue burst out of the bud, and, in fact, that’s the beginning of the whole season.”

Cannabis fee cheap in Osoyoos
Chelsea Powrie - 7:36 am - Biz Releases

File photo: Colton Davies

Potential cannabis retail businesses in Osoyoos will pay $500 for a business licence, making it one of the cheaper places in the South Okanagan to operate such a store.

Osoyoos council voted Monday to pass the new bylaw. It had already been through three readings and much discussion, during which some council members objected to the fee on the grounds that it is much higher than a standard liquor store license, which they viewed as comparable.

“That comes across as a sin tax. It’s not a cost recovery. It doesn’t appear to me to be a cost recovery,” councillor Brian Harvey said at a December meeting. “I support the notion of changing the license on a cost-recovery basis.”

It’s still a lot less than businesses further north will be paying. In Penticton, it costs a staggering $2,500 to even apply for a cannabis business license, with a $5,000 license fee on top of that. In Summerland, the application is $1,500 with a $400 license fee on top.

Though Osoyoos council had no members of the public stand up to speak either for or against the bylaw during a pre-determined public response period at Monday’s meeting, they did receive a letter that voiced concerns.

“I fail to appreciate the business logic in mandating such an onerous fee, five times higher than for liquor sales businesses. Through Canadian and provincial legislation, the same type of access restrictions (age and personal identification) apply to liquor sales and cannabis sales, so I fail to see why council would propose a much greater restriction and financial requirement for cannabis sales,” Osoyoos resident Trevor Gambell said.

The bylaw change passed Monday without discussion among council members.

Council ready for cannabis
Wayne Moore - 6:21 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The first batch of retail cannabis applications will finally land on city council’s desk Monday.

The applications will be viewed by councillors nearly four months after the Nov. 30 application deadline.

Since that date, staff reviewed and scored the 36 rezoning applications accepted by the city. Fifteen of those were given the news early last month that they would be allowed to move ahead.

Planner Ryan Smith says the first group of five or six possible storefront locations will be brought forward during the first wave.

“There was a possibility it was going to be last Monday, but we were trying to consult with Liquor and Cannabis Control to make sure we got the recommendations right in the report, so it took an extra week to get it sorted out,” Smith said.

“We had to send them a resolution from our council. We wanted to make sure the resolution met their criteria. We didn’t want to send five or six rezoning reports then have to do them over again.”

Smith says the simplest of the 15 rezoning applications are going through the system first.

He says those with more complicated applications are taking a little longer to process and will go forward at later dates.

Applications approved by council will still be required to go through a public hearing before being granted a business license.

The first public hearing could come as soon as April 23.

Before any store can open, operators must also receive a provincial licence. That process has been extremely slow.

There are 458 applications before the province, 185 of those from prospective operators in the Interior and Northern B.C. Only 14 provincial licenses have been awarded.

1151 Sunset Drive alive
Kirk Penton - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo: Kirk Penton
The view from the 20th floor of 1151 Sunset Drive.

If they turned the history of 1151 Sunset Drive into an amusement park ride, it would make for one heck of a roller-coaster.

The 21-storey tower is finally full of residents, nearly a decade and a half after the foundation was poured. On Wednesday afternoon, officials with Kerkhoff Construction and a team of Realtors hosted an open house for one of the building’s sub-penthouses, but most of the building has been sold.

What a ride it has been for the project, which started being built in 2008 but looked for the longest time like it would never get finished.

“This was started by a totally different developer back in 2006 or 2007, and it sat derelict until about 2016,” Kerkhoff development and project manager Robert Camacho said. “In 2017 we actually decided to take over this project. The foundations were complete, the ground floor was complete, so we started here on site and without a lot of ability to plan, but we’ve turned over quite a spectacular building, second to none in the Okanagan.”

Calgary’s Lucaya Redux Corp. got the ball rolling on the site in 2008, but the financial crisis forced work to cease later that year. The site was abandoned and became an eyesore and a nuisance for the city over the next eight years. A Chinese development company, Jingon Development Corporation, purchased the site in 2012 but didn’t do anything with it. Kerkhoff took over in 2016 and was able to finish the job.

Now it is working on selling the 20th-floor sub-penthouse suite, which features floor-to-ceiling windows, more than 2,100 square feet, two bedrooms, three bathrooms, two patios and stunning views in all directions.

“It’s one of the premier views in Kelowna, and we’re pretty proud of it,” Camacho said. “And on a day like this, it really does show it off. You can see everything from the bridge right down to the other side of the lake. It’s beautiful.

“The sub-penthouse offers quite spacious living for condo living, very high-end finishes throughout, high-end appliances and granite countertops in the kitchen.”

The sub-penthouse can be yours for $1,699,900.

Escape room escapes fine
Nicholas Johansen - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

A Kelowna woman who fell and injured her hand at a local escape room tried, and failed, to have the business pay for her injury-related expenses.

In February 2018, to celebrate her birthday with her two sons, the woman attended the local escape room, where participants solve puzzles and find clues to escape a room within a time limit.

The woman says she tripped on a hidden stair in the room, falling and breaking her finger. While she says she was in pain, she continued playing the game.

She went to the hospital the next day and learned her finger had been fractured.

She has since filed a claim against the business for more than $1,400, citing the cost of repairing her ring that had to be cut off, snow shovelling expenses that she couldn’t do herself because of the injury, missed pay for two and a half days of work, and parking expenses at the hospital.

A recent decision by B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal found the woman had signed a waiver of liability before entering the escape room.

While she says she wasn’t aware of what she was signing, the tribunal ruled the waiver was of little consequence, as she hadn’t successfully proven the business had acted negligently.

“The applicant says the stair she tripped on was an obvious tripping hazard, and both of her sons said the stair was hidden. However, there is no photograph of the stair or the Exit room in evidence,” tribunal member Sarah Orr stated.

Therefore, while Orr said it was “unfortunate” the woman had tripped, there is no legal basis for the business to pay for her injury expenses.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal is an online tribunal that deals with small claims under $5,000 and strata disputes in B.C. Beginning in April, the CRT will also begin resolving motor vehicle accidents and injury disputes up to $50,000.

True Leaf scores huge deal
Jon Manchester - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Vernon-based pot for pets company True Leaf Medicine International has expanded its distribution to 3,500 stores worldwide with the addition of retailer Pet Planet.

The company, which has its main growing facility in Lumby, made the announcement Wednesday at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla.

True Leaf’s hemp-based pet supplements will be available in Pet Planet’s 75 stores in Canada and the United States starting April 1.

“As cannabis and hemp products continue to gain mainstream market momentum, our fully legal hemp-based formulas have caught the attention of pet retailers in North America and Europe,” founder and CEO Darcy Bomford said in a press release.

True Leaf produces a range of wellness products, anchored by hemp, to target specific pet health challenges.

“We were drawn to their products because they are fully legal, safe and effective,” Pet Planet CEO Laura Leah English said.

Glimmer of hope in budget
Kirk Penton - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo: Kirk Penton
KPMG’s Nicole Watson (left) and Judith Carbonneau Kaplan address the chamber breakfast on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s federal budget didn’t get the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce fired up one way or another.

“Nothing to get overly upset about,” executive director Dan Rogers said Wednesday. “Nothing to get overly excited about.”

There was one item, however, buried deep in the massive document that piqued the chamber’s interest, and it has to do with interprovincial trade. It’s a hot topic in the Okaganan due to the impact the current regulations, which are restrictive, have on the wine and spirits industry.

The Liberals intend to remove the federal requirements that called for alcohol moving from one province to another to be sold to the liquor control board. It’s a small step towards interprovincial trade, but Rogers said at least it’s a step in the right direction.

“A winery can potentially and theoretically sell directly to a vendor or a restaurant in Alberta, without going through the Alberta Liquor Control Board,” Rogers said. “But the province still has what happens within their jurisdictional boundaries. That’s why those interprovincial agreements that ensure free flow across borders are critically important. It’s a good step by the federal government to make that regulatory change. Now we need to see the provinces respond as well.”

The chamber held its annual post-federal budget breakfast on Wednesday morning at Kelowna Yacht Club for members and others with business interests. KPMG’s Nicole Watson and Judith Charbonneau Kaplan covered a few of the budget’s highlights and how the resulting taxes will affect businesses.

“It’s been coined as a political budget in an election year, so not totally unexpected,” Rogers said. “There are some good indications of some things that might help business in the Okanagan, particularly if we’re making some strides on freeing up interprovincial trade when it comes to wine and spirits. That’s a real positive.

“… We just think it’s a missed opportunity to address some of the major issues that the Canadian chamber has been mentioning to address fully; the issues around an updated tax code, which hasn’t been done for decades.”

Twin rinks put on hold
Colin Dacre - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The City of Penticton will study options to keep the aging Memorial and McLaren arenas operational for another 10 years, after which the city hopes to have secured funding for a replacement twin-rink surface.

Council made the decision Tuesday, while also voting to surrender a $6 million grant earmarked for the twin-rink SOEC project. The city was forced to hand the gas tax grant back to the Union of B.C. Municipalities because it failed to find the remainder of the project’s funding by the March 31, 2019 deadline.

Director of facilities Bregje Kozak told council Memorial Arena needs $6 million, and McLaren needs $1.5 million just to keep the lights on in the short term. She pointed to a $500,000 roof replacement to take place this year at Memorial and the looming need for the freon ice plant at McLaren to be replaced.

Despite the funding setback for the $34 million twin-rink project, Kozak said it is still the best way forward. The plan would see a new facility built on the west edge of the SOEC campus, Memorial Arena converted into a dry facility and McLaren demolished.

“This project should really be considered in the overall lens of best value for the city. While the initial costs are high, the other option of continuing to provide bare minimum investment into the facilities is unsustainable,” Kozak said.

City council voted to support the staff recommendation to have the city plan to invest enough in the two buildings to keep them open for up to 10 years while at the same time seeking funding to replace or upgrade them.

The cost of upgrading Memorial and McLaren to a modern standard could be as high as $23 million, council heard.

“It’s disappointing that we have to decline the $6 million, because they don’t come around very often,” Coun. Judy Sentes said. “I really want to see that twin-rink facility be pursued.”

Coun. Frank Regehr was less enthusiastic, saying the city has plenty of other priorities and it’s too soon to say whether the twin-rink plan deserves the new council’s support.

Penticton keeps OSA afloat
Colin Dacre - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo: Colin Dacre

Penticton city council is bailing out the Shatford Centre and Okanagan School of the Arts to the tune of at least $47,000 in a bid to keep the society operational.

Council voted Tuesday to provide the funding to offset electrical bills and short-term operating expenses, two days prior to an OSA special meeting Thursday night for which the non-profit gave notice to its members of possible vote for dissolution.

OSA board president Robin Robertson was before council asking for a total of $132,000, with the additional $85,000 requested for “critical building upgrades.”

The OSA is working to transition from its previous, unsustainable, business model focused on single events to one anchored by long-term tenants within the historic Shatford Centre.

Robertson explained they have been working to attract tenants, like the already-moved-in Penticton Indian Band economic development branch, but have “run out of runway” while being hamstrung by the condition of the nearly 100-year-old building.

She said upgrades to the city’s heating and air conditioning system are critical.

Council ultimately voted unanimously to grant the OSA $47,000, but were hesitant to contribute anything further without a formal business plan or quotes for needed repairs from the nonprofit. Council directed staff to work with the OSA to look into additional funding for building repairs once more precise figures can be determined.

OSA members will still meet Thursday at 6 p.m. to examine options to get the society onto a sustainable road.

Firefighting jobs need filling
Okanagan Edge Staff - Mar 20, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Wilson’s Landing Fire Department is looking for a few new firefighters.

The department is conducting a paid-on-call firefighter recruitment night on Wednesday, April 10, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the Station 42 fire hall. Application packages and recruitment information will be available.

The interviews and physical testing for potential candidates will take place later this spring, and training will be provided for successful applicants.

Prospective members must live within eight kilometres of the Station 42 fire hall, which is located at 2396 Westside Road North. That is essentially the area from Traders Cove to Shelter Cove.

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