Council takes first steps towards limiting liquor store and offsale operation hours

The City of Prince Albert has taken the first steps towards limiting when and where liquor sale permit holders sell alcohol.

On Monday, council approved a motion from Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha to consult off sale permit holders and community members about limiting sale hours to between 9 a.m. and midnight from Monday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The motion also asks for an opinion from the city solicitor around what the city can and can’t do when it comes to limiting alcohol sales. Bars and taverns will not be affected by any changes.

The final motion was very different from the original one in the agenda, which called for a report from administration but no consultation, but Botha said he was still happy with the results.

“Is this perfect as it is? No, but I think if we consult with business owners as part of the process, and every member of our community has the opportunity to speak to council, or to submit their (views) through the city clerk’s office, that this is a good start.”

Monday’s proposal comes a week before private Saskatchewan businesses with liquor store permits will be allowed to sell the permit separately from the business.

Botha received strong support for his motion from Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards, who said it “gets the city moving forward,” and Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselksy, who argued reducing liquor store sales hours could help curtail the city’s police budget.

“Is 9 a.m. to midnight the right hours? Maybe not, but it’s asking for some options, the way I read that … which is what we want in reports,” Edwards said during the meeting. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t support this. It just moves us forward.”

“The police budget, a good portion of it is due to alcohol abuse in our community. They could probably have about 30 fewer policeman if it wasn’t for chronic alcoholism in our community,” Nowoselsky added.

Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody also offered support for the motion after Botha agreed to an amendment that called for more consultation with current liquor permit owners and the public.

“Whether you like it or don’t like it or drink or don’t want to drink … the fact of the matter is that the industry should be consulted,” Cody argued. “I’m not sure any one of us has done any consultation whatsoever and I think we owe that to the industry. I think we need to do that before we make any kind of decisions.”

Monday’s vote passed by a 7-2 margin, with Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick and Mayor Greg Dionne voting against it.

Dionne said he couldn’t support it because of the resolution called for a complete shutdown on liquor sales for only two statutory holidays: Christmas Day and Good Friday. Dionne felt more statutory holidays should be added to the list, especially Easter Sunday. He also felt that city administrators and the new city solicitor would not have enough time to put the report together before its due date.

Monday’s motion calls for administrators to have a report before council for the first meeting in January 2019.

“The list for the city solicitor is huge,” Dionne said. “This will not be, at this point, a priority. We have lots of other land deals, there’s lots of priorities that we need to solicit a review with my office and with Jim’s (city manager Jim Toye) office, so even though it’s going to go to the city solicitor, this will not be a quick response.”

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