Admin asks for go-ahead to draft bylaw limiting liquor store hours

Prince Albert City Hall. – Herald file photo

The City of Prince Albert’s Planning and Development Department is looking to create a bylaw preventing alcohol stores from opening before 10 a.m. and closing before 11 p.m.

City administrators have asked for approval to begin drafting such a bylaw. Council will vote on the proposal at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

Planning and Development director Craig Guidinger said they made the recommendation after talking with multiple groups, including emergency services, business owners, researchers, and municipalities who have instituted similar restrictions.

“We wanted to kind of stay close to our cannabis stores (hours), which we currently do have the authority to manage,” Guidinger said. “Those are from 11 (a.m.) until 11 (p.m.). We did a lot of looking around.

“We looked at what La Ronge does—they implemented this a few years ago—and some other provinces, and we found that from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. was kind of an average. We found that you have to atleast (change) the hours of operation by at least two hours to actually have a recognizable impact on calls for service and things like that, so a lot of different things were taken into consideration.”

The planning department began research the effects of capping operation hours following a June 2022 executive committee meeting when council approved a motion asking the planning department to look into the matter.

Previously, Guidinger said, the City had no control over when alcohol stores opened or closed, as the provincial government set those guidelines. That changed last spring when the province began selling off its SLGA stores, and letting municipalities set their own hours of operation guidelines.

Community Safety and Well-Being Coordinator Anna Dinsdale wrote the department’s final report on the matter. The report is included in Monday’s agenda package, and recommends the 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. option over three other possibilities.

Those three include 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., which is when Cannabis stores are allowed to operate, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dinsdale wrote that the first two options were rejected because they would have too much of a negative impact on retailers. The third option was rejected because it would provide minimal increases to community safety.

Under the province’s old Alcohol Control Regulations, retail liquor stores could remain open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.

According to Prince Albert Police Service Data, the majority of arrests in 2022 were for intoxication. Between January 2023 and October 2023, police received 2,386 calls for service because of intoxication, and made more than 1,600 arrests.

A survey conducted by the Prince Albert Community Alcohol Strategy Steering Community in 2021 found 65 per cent of respondents in the Prince Albert area wanted reduced hours of alcohol sale.

Dinsdale wrote that some organizations they consulted were worried about a possible increase in impaired driving if residents were forced to travel outside city limits to purchase alcohol. However, Dinsdale wrote that alcohol retailers operating outside city limits are open for less hours than their in-city counterparts.