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Construction underway for David's Tea outlet

David’s Tea – the latest chain store to touch off a storm of controversy in Banff – plans to open its newest location by the end of next month.

David’s Tea – the latest chain store to touch off a storm of controversy in Banff – plans to open its newest location by the end of next month.

Construction of interior renovations at the former Hero Shirts retail store in the 200 block of Banff Avenue is currently underway to make way for David’s Tea.

Brad Grill, a spokesperson for David’s Tea, said he is aware of the controversy that’s been brewing in Banff over the last couple of months, but said competition is healthy.

“We’ve been watching this very closely, but I think it’s part of a bigger thing going on in Banff with chains,” he said.

“Fairmont Hotels is a major chain and they have hotels in Banff. There’s Starbucks and local coffee shops and there’s room for everyone. We’re excited to be coming to Banff.”

Town of Banff officials say the company has applied for a business licence, but it has not yet been processed or issued.

The municipality has, however, issued a notice of decision for a change of use from ‘general retail store’ to ‘eating and drinking establishment’.

The Town is investigating quotas for franchise retail and restaurants, but under the current Land Use Bylaw, both general retail and eating and drinking establishments are permitted uses in that district.

In addition, the bylaw regulates all eating and drinking establishments in the same manner, whether the use is a coffee shop or nightclub, a franchise or an independent business.

“A permitted use cannot be refused on grounds of use under the provisions of the Municipal Government Act,” said Randall McKay, manager of planning and development.

McKay said the planning department is still waiting for one item from the company to fulfill the conditions of approval before issuing the development permit.

“We have allowed the contractor to commence leasehold improvements in the area not affected by the change of use,” he said.

News that David’s Tea, a Montreal-based company with 70 stores across Canada and two in New York City would open in Banff, was met with staunch opposition from members of the community and the locally-owned Banff Tea Company.

Over the last two decades, public outcry over chain stores has centred on the loss of Banff’s character as a small mountain tourist town and the threat to locally-owned mom-and-pop businesses.

Susanne Gillies-Smith, owner of Banff Tea Company, said she hopes council follows up on its decision to at least consider quotas, and actually go ahead and implement them.

“I pretty much knew they were coming in… it’s just official now,” she said, adding she has received an outpouring of support.

“This is just proof of things to come in this town. We’re still open and we’re going to try to survive.”

Grill said the company is excited to be coming to Banff, noting they hope to be open for business by mid- to the end of February.

“We love to bring tea to the public and educate them about tea,” he said. “We want to make more tea drinkers and that’s going to help everyone.”

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