The Site C dam worker camp could soon be home to British Columbia's most exclusive drinking establishment.
ATCO Two Rivers Camp Services has applied for a liquor licence to run a "gastro lounge" in the 2,000 person worker camp built just outside Fort St. John for the $8.8 billion hydroelectric project.
The lounge will "provide (a) high standard of lounge service with high end comfort foods," according to a liquor primary licence set to go before the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) July 14. Only workers on the project and registered guests will be allowed to visit the lounge, which is behind security check points at the entrance to the construction site.
"Finishing the evening with an after-dinner drink or meeting up with friends following an event will now be a fun option with the convenience of stopping by the Site C Lounge for a glass of wine on a balmy summer evening, or a warm drink on a cold winter night," the application reads.
According to Site C spokesperson David Conway, allowing alcohol in a controlled setting the was deemed the best option for Site C. The lounge will be open from 5 to 9:30 p.m.
"Due to the close proximity of the construction site to the city, this approach has been taken to offer Site C workers an option for responsibly consuming alcoholic beverages without going into the city," he wrote in a statement.
"Alcoholic beverages available in the lounge will be limited to beer and wine and will be subject to a drink limit," Conway wrote. "Alcohol consumption or possession anywhere else in the camp is strictly prohibited."
The decision is part of a larger debate on whether to allow drinking in the industrial worker camps that dot Northeast B.C.'s oilpatch.
Whether camps should allow alcohol in pub-like settings or prohibit it entirely is a question the PRRD has wrestled with in considering worker camp applications.
The issue has been particularly pronounced in the Pink Mountain area north of Fort St. John, where residents have complained about workers in "dry" camps drinking and driving along backroads.
Conway said having a fully dry camp wasn't feasible for a project so close to a city.
"Many large construction projects with worker camps are located in remote areas far away from an urban centre. As a result, this makes it feasible to have a 'dry' camp where no alcohol is served, since workers do not have the option of arranging transportation into town."
But Jack Hynes, owner of the local On The Rocks Pub and Nightclub chain in Fort St. John, worried the lounge would mean fewer workers spending money in local establishments.
"It's going to be terrible," he said. "A lot of people in this town spent the last two years getting ready for an influx of people. Now we're all kind of left there with our hat in our hands."
"As far as I've been hearing from the people that worker there, they want to keep them in camp—that's it. No cheeseburgers, no movies, no pub time, no anything," he said.
Regional district directors have the option of commenting on the Site C liquor application, and can decide whether to collect comments from the public on the issue.
The dam will flood around 83 kilometres of the Peace River Valley and generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity.