Budget 2016-2018 approved, Best Bar None 2015, Edmonton Journal Power 30 for 2015

I’m trying something new, where I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. I’ll organize them here. Have feedback? Let me know!

Budget 2016 approved

City Council unanimously passed Edmonton’s first multi-year Operating Budget today, with a tax increase of 3.4% in each of 2016 and 2017, and 4.8% in 2018. For a “typical home valued at $401,000” that’ll work out to an extra $76 next year, according to the City.

“We made fiscally responsible decisions to control cost increases in certain areas, find reductions, and to reallocate existing funds to civic services that residents told us are their top priorities,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “Edmontonians expected us to show restraint. We delivered, while enhancing the services that are needed for our growing city, such as more police officers, firefighters and traffic safety measures.”

Roughly 2.6% of the increase is to cover population growth and inflation, and 0.8% is for the Valley Line LRT. The 0.1% decrease for 2018 comes from the $1.2 million that was leftover when all of the requests were decided upon. A small gesture, but still.

It’s probably not as much fiscal restraint as some would have liked, but Council did make some important decisions to reduce the increase down from the originally proposed 4.9%. First, they cut the 1.5% for neighbourhood renewal in 2016 and 2017, leaving the decision about 2018 to the next Council. Second, they finally did something about the ballooning police budget, capping increases to population growth and inflation. And third, they stood firm on affordable housing and the low-income transit pass, saying they are important initiatives but need funding from the other orders of government. Whether or not they get any additional funds remains to be seen.

One thing Council is planning to spend money on is the full service review, a process that could take three years and cost up to $3.75 million. They approved the preliminary terms of reference for the project today.

Props to Elise Stolte for all her live budget coverage on Twitter over the last week! Check out her list of budget winners and losers here.

Best Bar None 2015

The 6th annual Best Bar None awards took place last week. The awards recognized 67 bars, clubs, pubs, and lounges “for their commitment to high service and safety standards.” This year’s winners included:

  • Bar/Lounge: OTR Kitchen + Bar
  • Hotel Bar: The Lion’s Head Pub – Radisson Edmonton South
  • Restaurant and Bar: Teddy’s Palace
  • Pub: Hudsons Canadian Tap House (Whyte Avenue)
  • Large Pub: O’Byrne’s Irish Pub
  • Club: The Ranch Roadhouse
  • Campus: The Nest Taphouse Grill
  • Casino: River Cree Resort and Casino

Best Bar None 2015
Photo by Sticks & Stones, courtesy of AGLC

A new category, Event Venue, was introduced this year too so next year there’ll be one more award. I wasn’t able to make it this year, but I did attend last year and enjoyed learning more about the program. In addition to competing for the awards, venues receive accreditation for meeting specific standards related to safe operation and responsible management.

“The value of Best Bar None lies in the fact that those bars that meet stringent standards have demonstrated that they are responsibly managed, and that they are committed to ensuring their patrons can socialize in a clean, safe, well-managed establishment,“ said Brian Simpson, Deputy Chief, Edmonton Police Service.

You can see the full list of accredited venues for Edmonton here. Congrats to all!

Edmonton Journal Power 30

The Edmonton Journal released its Power 30 list for 2015 on Saturday, and so begins the season of lists.

“Sometimes it feels like a game of rock-paper-scissors, playing who ‘tops’ whom. Sometimes it’s very much a reality check, tracking a lack of diversity or gender balance. But most of all, it’s a reflection of this community and a snapshot of the year that was.”

There’s nothing particular surprising about the list. Premier Rachel Notley at number 1 was easily predicted, and Amarjeet Sohi at number 2 is hard to argue with. I’d say my eyebrows went up seeing Daryl Katz at number 3, ahead of Mayor Don Iveson at number 4. I think Mike Nickel at number 8 (the only Councillor on the list) is a great choice – he’s been a pleasant surprise on Council this term. I would have expected to see Police Chief Rod Knecht higher than 25 and Bob Nicholson lower than 11. Great to see Andrew Leach on the list at 15.

Many were quick to criticize the lack of gender and racial diversity, but the list doesn’t show who should be considered powerful, but who actually is.

“We define “power” as this: well-connected, well-known individuals with the means, influence, vision and leadership skills to get things done. They have a little celebrity, certain skills and/or work ethic, and sometimes, just enough luck to land in the community’s spotlight.”

By that definition, it’s not surprising that many of the people on the list are there just because of the positions they hold. Like, um, Connor McDavid. He’s got celebrity and the spotlight, but really? And at number 10?!

Recap: Best Bar None 2014

Last week I attended the fifth annual awards ceremony for Best Bar None. This year, 53 local bars, clubs, pubs, and lounges received accreditation, which means they are committed to ensuring their locations are held to the highest levels of safety and quality. While receiving accreditation is an achievement itself, the best of the best in six different categories were also honored with an award.

Best Bar None 2014

The winners for 2014 were (pdf news release here):

You can find the full list of accredited venues here.

Most of the accredited businesses had representatives present at the ceremony, and they all seemed to be having a great time. There was definitely some friendly rivalries going on, especially for the Club category, which The Ranch has won three times in a row now. Another frequent winner in previous years was Hudson’s Canadian Tap House.

Best Bar None 2014
Accredited & awarded businesses in the Club category

I’ve always heard about Best Bar None, but didn’t know much about it until I attended the awards ceremony this year. Here’s the description from their website:

“There’s good, there’s great, and there’s best. Best Bar None is a voluntary program for nightlife venues, designed to keep staff and patrons safe while recognizing excellence in the industry. Working with other establishments, government bodies, and law enforcement, a Best Bar None accredited establishment has taken steps to make sure their business is held to the highest levels of safety and quality. Through rigorous assessment, accreditation and awards, Best Bar None helps make sure your favourite nightlife venues have you covered.”

Becoming accredited means submitting written policies and procedures that cover all mandatory policies, completing mandatory operational forms and checklists, passing an in-person assessment, and completing a questionnaire. Businesses must have a wide range of policies, such as a glass collection policy and a written procedure for premises evacuation in the event of an emergency. For those venues that go above an beyond, there are a series of bonus policies they can submit, such as having a policy to provide surveillance camera images and data to police immediately upon request. During the physical assessment, venues must meet 19 different criteria, with an additional 22 criteria available for bonus points. You can see the complete criteria checklist online here in PDF.

Best Bar None 2014

The program is a partnership between the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC), the City of Edmonton, and the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). Originally created in the U.K., the Alberta Safer Bars Council brought the program to Edmonton for a pilot in 2010. Of the 63 establishments that applied for accreditation that year, 38 were successful. Since being piloted here in Edmonton, the Best Bar None program has since been adopted in Calgary, Grande Prairie, Toronto, and Ottawa, with many other municipalities looking to start their own programs.

At the City of Edmonton, the Best Bar None program is administered by Responsible Hospitality Edmonton. They are stewards of Edmonton’s late-night economy, affectionately known as “the other 9 to 5”. It’s bigger than you might think too, with more than 5,800 full-time equivalent jobs, 235 licensed establishments open after midnight, and an estimated total impact on economic output of $686 million. In addition to their work on Best Bar None, Responsible Hospitality also runs the Public Safety Compliance Team and Street as a Venue programs.

You might think the Best Bar None program is for those in the industry only and not of interest to patrons, but that’s not true. Surveys show that 90% of patrons believe bar managers can do things to make their venues safer and 80% rate safety as being important when considering which locations to attend. I have certainly noticed the sticker on windows more frequently when I walk past establishments now, and it’s helpful to know that those locations have met a minimum standard.

AGLC has produced some new commercials that make this point as well, with their slogan “we’ve got you covered”:

Thanks to AGLC for inviting me to the event, and congratulations to all of the accredited and awarded businesses! You can see the rest of my photos here.

You can follow Best Bar None on Twitter for updates.