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Updated: AIKA Spa co-founder says business is headed to Squamish Valley

District of Squamish says it is aware the business is moving, but has no further comment at this time.
AIKA Spa was located on Depot Road in Squamish.

Update on March 22

The co-founder at AIKA Spa, Tristan Jenkin, emailed The Squamish Chief to say that the business is now moving to the Squamish Valley.

A spokesperson for the District of Squamish, Rachel Boguski, said the muni is aware that the business is moving from its Depot Road location.

"Until that process is complete, we have no further comment," she wrote in an email to The Squamish Chief on March 22.

The Squamish Chief will continue to follow up on this story as it progresses.

—Original story—

A local business is raising awareness about its impending closure due to regulatory issues, but the business faces a number of hurdles.

A co-founder at AIKA Spa, Tristan Jenkin, recently started an online petition that states the District of Squamish has taken action to close the spa’s operations at its Depot Road location. Jenkin told The Squamish Chief that he is asking to meet with Squamish council to find an “amicable” solution to AIKA’s zoning issues.

“All we've asked for is for a forum for consultation, not to fight straight against what the bylaws say,” said Jenkin. “But to work with the powers that be to find a path forward that's amicable that allows us to continue, whilst also honours the requirements of the District zoning bylaws.”

Jenkin said AIKA started as a mobile spa business in 2021 before becoming a more permanent fixture at its Depot Road location in 2022. At one point, the spa had a hot tub, cold plunge pool, sauna and some food and beverage.

Jenkin said in 2023, he learned that the area where operations are located was not zoned for a sauna and, thus, the District would not authorize a business licence. Since then, Jenkin said he sought consultation with council to no avail, as the business continued operating.

A spokesperson for the District emailed The Squamish Chief stating: “Any person who operates a business within the District of Squamish is required to have a valid business licence, approved zoning, and any other permitting required by the District, as well as any additional required permits and licences from other regulatory authorities such as Vancouver Coastal Health, or Technical Safety BC.”

The Squamish Chief inquired with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) about AIKA. In response, a spokesperson for VCH said, “At this time, the business at this location [1796 Depot Rd.] has an outstanding closure order under the Public Health Act.”

The Squamish Chief obtained a copy of the closure order, which states that food premises, hot tub and cold plunge pools need to cease operations. It was signed by an Environmental Health Officer with VCH on Oct. 16, 2023.

The order stated that some contraventions found “constitute a health hazard,” including discharge from the hot tub and cold plunge pools onto land without authorization.

However, the order did not close the sauna. Still, it said AIKA needed to provide a written plan to the satisfaction of VCH, addressing “the cleaning and disinfection of the sauna on an ongoing basis” and “a plan for … hand washing facilities for patrons and staff to wash hands as required.”

Jenkin said he disputed the closure order, but nonetheless followed suit with closing the food, hot tub and cold plunge pools.

“There [were] no facts or evidence to suggest the validity of the closure order. And we disputed it,” said Jenkin. “Yet, we still took action and changed our business operations to meet the requests.”

About the sauna, Jenkin said they have since provided the necessary information to VCH, enabling AIKA to continue its use. However, VCH said that is not the case.

“VCH has had some communications with the owner, but no approval has been issued.”

Be that as it may, Jenkin said they could resolve the issues with VCH, if he could get a business licence from the District, which he says largely goes back to zoning.

The District shared the standard process for rezoning in an email with The Squamish Chief.

“Any person or business who wishes to go through a rezoning process can meet with staff for a pre-application meeting to receive feedback on their proposal and to understand the requirements and the process for rezoning,” wrote spokesperson Rachel Boguski.

“After that, an application would be made, which staff check for completeness and review against District policy. The proposal would then be brought forward to a council process, with recommendations from staff to council on how to proceed. A rezoning requires three readings of the bylaw and adoption by council and may include a public hearing to receive submissions from the public.”

But Jenkin said he has not been able to get a pre-application meeting.

“We have not been granted a pre-application meeting to discuss the rezoning,” he said.

Jenkin said in January correspondence with the District, he was informed they obtained legal representation. When asked about the pre-application meeting, the District provided no further comment on the matter.

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