The City of Prince Albert’s three licensed drive-thru liquor establishments are the most of any city in Saskatchewan, and Prince Albert city council has decided that’s enough.
On Monday, council voted to ban the approval of any additional drive-thru liquor locations, effective immediately.
The motion also banned the transfer of drive-thru liquor licenses, which are needed to legally operate those establishments. That means Prince Albert’s two current establishments, along with a third one that’s part of an already approved hotel development in the southwest corner of the city, cannot change location.
Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski brought forward the motion at Monday’s city council meeting. He called the ban a “sign of a healthy community” and argued that the negative social effects of liquor sales were outweighing any benefits.
“We’ve seen this fad of drive through liquor stores proliferate in our community and we’ve seen the numbers and what that means,” he said. “I think there are repercussions that the public as a whole isn’t aware of, but we have a responsibility to deal with.”
The cost of policing is one of the biggest concerns. Prince Albert currently employs 92 police officers and seven community safety officers for a population of 35,926 people. By comparison, the City of Moose Jaw employs 54 police officers for a population of 33,890 people.
Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky said creating more restrictions on the sale of liquor would place less strain on police resources in Prince Albert, and possibly bring the cost of policing down.
“A good chunk of our police budget is picking up these intoxicated people,” Nowoselsky said. “If we can reduce that, it’s going to reduce the tax burden on our citizens (and) it’s going to be a healthier community.”
Mayor Greg Dionne also came out strongly in favour of the motion. He said he was shocked to hear Prince Albert had more drive-thru liquor locations than any other city in the province.
“It’s a good motion and I’ll be supporting it,” he said during the meeting. “Three is enough.”
Monday’s debate won’t be the last one as city council seeks to place additional restraints on the sale of alcohol.
Officials, like Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha, said they were pleased to see recent steps taken in La Ronge to develop and implement a community alcohol strategy. Botha said he’d like to see a comprehensive review of city bylaws and alcohol policy in the future.
Dionne said the next city council meeting will include a motion to create a committee that assists northern communities plagued with alcohol related problems. The city hopes to partner with outside organizations like New North. Dionne said he also plans on bringing up the issue at the next Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention in March.