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Bylaw adopted to encourage wine tourism

By David Pattenaude, Petrolia Topic

Plympton-Wyoming council has passed a bylaw for an area wide tourism exemption under the Retail Business Holidays Act.

The exemption will allow retail businesses in the Town of Plympton-Wyoming to stay open voluntarily on five of nine statutory holidays (Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day).

There is now a 30-day period during which appeals of the bylaw can be made to the Ontario Municipal Board.

The bylaw is for the entire municipality and opening on statutory holidays would be voluntary for retail businesses. They would not have to open on those days.

Currently, the penalty imposed by the province for being open on a statutory holiday can vary from $500 to $5,000 or be as high as $50,000 for retail outlets.

At a public meeting in Wyoming on Sept. 25, Marc Alton, co-owner of Alton Farms Estate Winery, requested the bylaw.

He said “...tourists expect to be able to tour wineries on their vacations and holidays, as they do in the Niagara area. The LCBO requires a tourism exemption bylaw to be in place for wineries to be open on major holidays.”

Alton said he and his wife Anne, who also co-owns the winery, have been working for eight years to prove a wine tourism region can be made in Lambton County.

“Thanks to community support, we have proven that wine grapes can be grown here and that wine can be sold in this area,” he said.

“So we have made the first steps to proving that Lambton can be a wine tourism region and are trying to promote Lambton County as a winery region. Winery tourism produces 14,000 jobs and $3 billion of economic impact to Ontario, according to the Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario,” said Alton. “Winery tourism in Lambton County will provide alternative jobs for our families and children outside of the traditional farming and industry jobs.”

Alton and a reporter were the only two people in the gallery at the public meeting and Mayor Lonny Napper said “By the looks of tonight's crowd, people are not too excited” about a tourism exemption bylaw.

Napper said merchants he talked to are not too excited about the bylaw either way and added that when the province allowed Sunday shopping years ago, seven days a week shopping “really opened up.”

Napper joked he had a relative who grew grapes, made wine and was always open seven days a week.

Deputy Mayor Don Nelson also couldn't resist injecting some humour into the discussion, and said there could have been better attendance at the public meeting had Alton let it be known there would be free samples of wine in the council chamber.

Alton said new Highway 402 signs are helping to bring tourist traffic, including more U.S. traffic, to his winery; and said the tourism exemption bylaw will encourage tourists to come to the 5547 Aberarder Line winery any day of the week.

“We are getting busier and busier. Without the bylaw, tourists could bypass the region,” he said.

Napper asked Alton if he has any interest in developing a micro-brewery but Alton said that would require a special licence and he currently only has a licence to make wine from grapes.

Lambton County now has a meadery in Alvinston, a hard apple cider outlet in Thedford and a grape winery in Plympton-Wyoming.

Golf courses and grocery stores are already allowed under provincial law to be open on major holidays.

In a letter to council earlier this year, Anne Alton said the exemption will “...greatly help establish the winery...our busy times will be around holiday weekends when most tourists are coming to and going through our town.”



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