Council gives admin go-ahead to draft bylaw capping liquor store hours

Prince Albert City Hall -- Herald file photo.

Prince Albert City Council gave administration the go-ahead on Monday to draft a new bylaw regulating Liquor Store hours within City limits.

Under the proposed bylaw, liquor stores cannot open before 10 a.m. and must close at 11 p.m. Council also moved to have city administrators provide an update on how the bylaw impacts crime, public intoxication, and liquor retailers 12 months after it’s implemented.

“It’s not like we’re saying you can’t sell liquor,” said Mayor Greg Dionne. “If we were closed, then I’d agree with all the arguments, but it’s no different than grocery stores. I know the hours of our grocery stores … and I shop within those hours. It just makes sense that you do that. It would be totally different if we were saying, ‘no booze.’”

Dionne said he not only supports the motion, but wants the City to go further and ban retailers from selling alcohol on Christmas, Easter, and possibly other holidays. He said a small group of retailers or residents may not like it, but he’s looking forward to fighting them on it.

“All of a sudden alcohol seems to be a given right, and that’s not a fact,” Dionne said. “I’m glad to see it (the bylaw).”

Dionne made the motion to give administration approval at Monday’s meeting. That motion came following a report from Community Safety and Well-Being Coordinator Anna Dinsdale.

Dinsdale said the bylaw may change after the 12-month implementation period, so retailers, residents, emergency services, and support groups who were consulted will have a chance to re-visit it if they don’t like the results.

The proposed bylaw received strong support at Monday’s meeting. Coun. Blake Edwards said there is too much public intoxication in Prince Albert, and he’s willing to support the bylaw for a 12-month trial period if that’s what it takes to end it. Coun. Tony Head also spoke in favour of the bylaw, saying many residents he spoke with supported it.

“It (public intoxication) has got out of hand in today’s society, not just Prince Albert,” Edwards said during the meeting. “I’m fully supportive of reducing public intoxication because somehow society has just allowed it. It’s okay to be loaded on the streets and harassing people who are trying to shop and things like that, so if that (reducing public intoxication) is the goal, I’m all for it.”

“I am under no presumption that this is going to fix our problem in our city,” Head added. “I realize that, and I think so do our residents. The ones I have talked to our day and this last weekend are in favour of this overwhelmingly, it feels like. We need to do something, and so this is, I feel, a good step for this council.”

Head voted in favour of the motion, but asked Dinsdale how the City planned to enforce the bylaw.  Dinsdale said the City reached out to the SLGA last month, and if the bylaw is passed, the City has an opportunity to receive support from the organization.

“I don’t have the exact answer for you right now, but what I can say is I’ve started to have those conversations,” Dinsdale told council.

“There are several conversations that are ongoing,” she added. “I don’t have the exact answer … but certainly the SLGA have indicated they’d be keen to come and work with us.”

A 2021 survey from the Prince Albert Community Alcohol Strategy Steering Committee found 65 per cent of respondents in the Prince Albert area wanted to see reduced hours of sale for alcohol in Prince Albert.

From Jan. 2023 until Oct. 2023, the Prince Albert Police Service received 2,386 calls because of intoxication, resulting in more than 1,600 arrests.

Dinsdale wrote in her report that many business owners supported limiting sale hours, but smaller or private businesses noted the bylaw could restrict their ability to compete with larger retailers who also sell alcohol. Human services providers across a variety of sectors also expressed concerns the bylaw could have unintended social consequences.