Fluorescent pink, purple and green Post-it notes cover the beige walls that overlook the Cedar Hill golf course. Scrawled on each one is an idea or suggestion from a Saanichite, intent on seeing the clubhouse thrive and survive.
“Today is all about letting you have a say in what you want to see,” Jae Cooper, managing partner of Elevate Consulting, tells a group of residents.
Saanich hired the consultant firm as part of a recommendation from council in February that followed a series of heated meetings on the golf course and clubhouse’s $820,000 deficit for 2012.
While council made an in-camera decision in January to close the second-floor restaurant to save money, councillors felt what becomes of that space should be up to their constituents.
“It’s obvious everybody still wants a restaurant,” Saanich resident Cathy Ruszel says to an Elevate consultant after perusing the Post-it note suggestions, most of which called for reopening the restaurant, “and you’re going to say that to council, and they’re not going to OK that.”
Ruszel attended the Wednesday (June 20) open house at the golf course, along with another 150-or-so interested parties.
Saanich parks and recreation director, Doug Henderson, acknowledges that council could hear the direction of residents’ input, but stick with the status quo.
“Returning to what we had before, in terms of a full service operation restaurant, that’s not something being considered. I don’t think that rules out that there’s some type of food service,” he said.
“All the input we get will be reflected, but whatever finally is determined has to fit … in the context of the deficit reduction strategy and restructured food and beverage operations.”
Henderson says the municipality can’t contract out the space to a private food service provider, as there are successor rights for past unionized restaurant employees under the B.C. Labour Relations Code.
“You can’t just close a service down for a year or two years, pop it open again and say, ‘Oh well, we haven’t done it for a while. And now (it’s different because) it’s contracted out,'” the parks and rec director said.
In a document the News obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Saanich sought advice from two consultants on its best options, prior to the Jan. 12 decision to close the restaurant. Both advised that Saanich should seriously consider shutting it down.
“Given the current cost (wage and benefits) structure (at the Cedar Hill restaurant) the likelihood of this turning a gross profit sufficient to sustain operations in the future is very minimal,” says the report, paraphrasing Frank Bouree from Chemistry Consulting.
“If contracting out of the restaurant service is not a viable alternative to reduce costs, serious consideration should be given to reducing the service, while protecting the grab and run operation …,” the report reads, paraphrasing Ryan Crook with TruStar Golf Inc.
A Saanich staff report from last December had suggested keeping the restaurant open during the summer and Christmas, but council ultimately voted to close it to keep a lid on tax increases.
Henderson expects the summarized results of Wednesday’s Elevate consultation to be in by the end of July. He wants to see a report before council sometime in August.
Individuals who did not attend the meeting and would like to provide their feedback have an opportunity to fill out an online survey until July 5. That questionnaire can be found at saanich.ca/chgc.