Agricultural Land Commission decision closes Nanoose Bay’s Rusted Rake

WatchPopular Farm-to-table eatery will shut down Sunday

A popular restaurant in Nanoose Bay announced Friday that it is closing its doors.

Since opening two-and-a-half years ago, Rusted Rake has become Nanoose Bay’s go-to place for a fresh meal or coffee.

It features fresh food from the farm it was built on.

But the owners missed one ingredient. They didn’t get permits from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) or Regional District of Nanaimo.

Four months after opening, they were told they couldn’t operate a restaurant on farmland unless it was connected to a brewery.

“That’s what we did. We started the brewery…and put our application together and got the equipment,” said Will Gemmell, one of Rusted Rake’s owners.

But on Thursday, the Agricultural Land Commission released a unanimous decision refusing to allow the owners to build the brewery and continue operating Rusted Rake.

“It means 15 people have lost their jobs today. Hired staff who have committed themselves to us. A community loses its establishment. I lose my job,” said Jodie Lucas.

Customers are upset by the ALC’s decision.

“It’s packed with people. They want to encourage more business and employment with a micro-brewery and how does that in any way influence that we’re not utilizing the land?” asked Francis La Couvee, a customer.

“What does the agricultural land commission want to put on here? I mean they have a little farm. Farm-to-table. What do they want?” asked Val Neal, another customer.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s pedantic nonsense. And it has to be taken in the context of what it does for neighbourhoods. I was of the understanding that outfits like the ALC are working to protect communities and land. Well this is exactly the opposite,” said Jim Lucas, another customer.

The BC Liberals call the decision an example of agricultural businesses struggling under the rigid Agricultural Land Reserve regulations set out by the NDP government.

But in a statement, BC’s Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says:

“To be clear, the ALC’s decision was made based on rules put in place by the former BC Liberals. In the coming weeks, government will be engaging directly with farmers, the public and stakeholders to discuss how we can support more value-added activities on farms within the ALR.”

The owners of Rusted Rake are now at a loss about what their plans are moving forward. They harvested 10 tonnes of barley they now can’t sell at a profit. What they will do with their land and eatery is now very much up in the air.

See the ALC decision here.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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