Rippers bemoan liquor licence
London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
The London Rippers are 15 home games into their inaugural Frontier League season and still can't acquire a liquor licence to sell beer at Labatt Memorial Park.
The Rippers only sold alcohol during the opening two home games using a caterers’ licence that has now expired.
“It has nothing to do with applying or getting a liqour licence,” said Rippers’ owner David Martin. “It’s that there’s no licence available at this address, except for the (London) Majors and they’ve hijacked it and they’re holding it over our heads.”
The problem, he contends, is there can only be one liquor licence per address, which belongs to the Majors — tenants of the ballpark since 1925. Martin said he was never told of the single occupancy of serving alcohol before signing the lease.
He wants city council to get involved since Labatt Park is a, “City owned address and therefore, they control the rights of tenants on municipal property,” reads an open letter issued by the Rippers Thursday (June 21).
Loyalty by council, argues Martin, shouldn’t be based on longevity, but instead big business.
If London is the City of Opportunity, the Rippers GM has yet to catch a break.
“They said London was open for business. I brought mine down and all I’ve found is doors closed,” Martin said. “The London Majors in all their seasons haven’t brought as much money as I’ve put into this in just this one season. At the end of the day the city needs to get real and understand this is real business, this is real money that they’re playing around with and they need to stand up.”
According to the Rippers, the team has set up $2,100 in per diems in city restaurants for each home game, totaling $100,800, invested $72,000 into local hotels and spent $80,000 for rental fees and upgrades to Labatt Park. If the professional baseball team wants a liquor licence, Martin said he might have to put up an extra $24,000.
He added his lawyer was approached by an attorney representing the Majors asking for the hefty amount yesterday (June 21). The total equals out to $500 for each 48 home games.
The Rippers do get priority in scheduling at Labatt Park because they book the most days, said Scott Stafford, division manager of Parks and Community Sports for the city, but that’s the only thing the team gets in terms favouritism at the diamond, no matter how much money is spent.
Both sides were asked by London Mayor Joe Fontana to sit down to try and work towards an agreement earlier last week and although Martin has accused the Intercounty Baseball League team of foul play on the issue, Majors’ co-owner Scott Dart said he’s always been safe.
“To have another organization come in and piggyback off all that work we’ve already done, it’s something we take seriously,” he said, adding he has no knowledge of the requested $24,000, but he thinks compensation should be expected. “(Our liquor licence) is something we don’t want to lose just for the sake of playing nice with another team that’s here in the city with us.”
It took the Majors more than a year to acquire their licence, having to show the Labatt Park neighbourhood and Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario the merit behind booze at a ballgame and how the team would protect homes from rowdy drunks.
“It took a lot more time than we realized it was going to take and there was a lot of hoops to jump through and the neighbourhood was not supportive of it,” Dart said.
“One of the conditions in our licence is we have to have a number on our website, so that anyone from the neighbourhood can call me at any time.”
At the end of the day, both Stafford and Dart agreed, the Rippers’ alcohol issues aren’t decided by the city or the Majors.
“It’s between the AGCO,” Stafford said.
If a council member isn’t willing to step up to bat for the Rippers in the bottom of the ninth, Martin said he is willing to push things further.
“Some leader needs to come and make things better by facilitating or we’re going to have to pursue legal action against the city,” he said. “There’s nothing else we can do.”