© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
National Hotel owner Rahim Basaria speaks at Monday’s city council meeting, during which he requested the city’s elected officials to not ban taxicabs from drive-thru liquor stores.
In a split vote, the city’s elected have adopted a bylaw amendment that bans taxicabs from using drive-thru liquor stores.
Mayor Greg Dionne’s handling of this matter has been “very inappropriate,” National Hotel owner Rahim Basaria asserted during Monday’s city council meeting.
“If he wanted (the) safety of the drivers he should be making the bylaw for the taxi drivers to have the cameras in their vehicles.
“If they are getting abused they will be recorded and police can go after them.”
Basaria spoke at Monday’s city council despite opposition from Dionne and Coun. Mark Tweidt, who noted that Monday’s meeting was not a public forum.
However, the balance of council voted to allow Basaria five minutes of speaking time.
“It’s going to hurt our business,” Basaria said of the drive-thru liquor store ban. “We have more than 2,000 taxis coming in a month, and we’re going to be hurt.”
At recent council meetings and with the media, Dionne has noted that people prohibited by the courts from purchasing alcohol can do so through taxicab drivers, who do not know who is prohibited.
“Anybody can come to our business and they can buy the booze if they are of a legal age,” Basaria said, noting that they are not necessarily kept abreast of court action.
“We are doing our job very professionally,” he said, citing a number of downtown area improvements his staff has made since taking ownership of the National Hotel three years ago.
“We are not selling to the driver, we are selling to the passenger,” he concluded, added that if the taxicab ban comes into place he “will go further in court for this.”
We have more than 2,000 taxis coming in a month, and we’re going to be hurt. Rahim Basaria
Sparked by Basaria’s comments, Coun. Lee Atkinson vocalized support of his “relevant” comments.
A separation between passengers and the driver might help matters better than a drive-thru liquor store ban, Atkinson said.
“That safeguards the driver from any negative thing,” he added.
“If this is about safety of drivers and the taxi business, maybe this should be about safety equipment installed in taxis.”
Such things as barriers between drivers and passengers and cameras would help taxicab drivers in all situations, not just at the two drive-thru liquor stores that Monday’s bylaw amendment bans them from.
Countering Atkinson’s suggestion, Dionne noted that drivers have the option to do it today without a bylaw, but they don’t. With a barrier in place, they’re not able to accommodate that extra passenger in the front seat.
A schoolteacher by day, Coun. Ted Zurakowski said that the bylaw amendment was a no-brainer.
Having talked it over with a number of older high school students, Zurakowski said that the received a lot of valuable feedback.
“I think the issue of alcohol in our community is a big one,” he said. “When I asked these kids about their behaviour and how they get their alcohol underage, one of them is through a taxi … Hearing those stories, this is an easy decision for me.”
Although this is “not the end,” Zurakowksi said that the bylaw amendment is “a step forward.”