Businesses will benefit from liquor law changes: MLA Jeremy Harrison

by Phil Ambroziak

The provincial government’s new liquor regulations are something many people feel are long overdue.

That’s how Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison described the feedback he’s received since the province announced the regulations early last week.

“So far, the response has been very positive from both consumers and businesses,” Harrison said. “A lot of these changes are common sense changes.”

A small sampling of the more than 70 new regulations includes increased eligibility for operating off-sale establishments, allowing spas and salons to obtain a permit to sell and serve alcohol, and allowing restaurants to offer a bring-your-own-wine service to customers.

“I chaired the committee that conducted the review (of existing regulations) and recommended the changes,” Harrison continued.

“It was an initiative that began during my time as enterprise minister. The catalyst was the belief that, by reviewing each regulation line-by-line, we could identify and thus change the rules to benefit consumers and reduce the regulatory burden on businesses.”

Harrison said stakeholders – including hotel and restaurant associations among others – were involved in the review process, which ultimately led to 77 recommendations.

“They weren’t hastily done,” he said. “It took about a year to get through the entire system and to ensure all the checks and balances were given. That’s why so many changes were introduced now, all at once. There will be more (non-alcohol related) changes to come, as this is an ongoing process.”

As for liquor regulations, Harrison said many of the existing rules were “just silly.”

“We were able to get rid of these quite easily,” he noted. “One example included only being allowed to have one beverage cart per nine holes at a golf course. There were also several comical restrictions around karaoke that were very outdated. In fact, it’s been reported the new changes were so long overdue that Saskatchewan has finally made its way to the late 20th Century.”

One particular regulation that has raised some concern is one that allows movie theatres to obtain a permit to serve alcohol in adult-only areas. Harrison, however, does not perceive this as being a problem.

“Allowing theatres and other such venues the ability to serve alcohol is something that’s already been done in other places,” he said.

“Also, allowing spas and salons the ability to do the same for their clients is sure to generate a positive response from the ladies out there who may want to relax with a drink while they get their hair done.”

The major benefit, Harrison continued, is the regulation that allows for more stand-alone taverns.

“In rural Saskatchewan, there are many establishments that offer off-sales for beer and liquor, but in order to do so have had to maintain a minimum of six hotel rooms at their respective locations,” he said. In many cases, these hotel rooms may never have been rented in 30 years. This is no longer a requirement, so there is no longer a need for anyone to maintain such a pretence. The regulations also allow for seasoned off-sales at resort communities. This could prove beneficial from a safety standpoint because it reduces the risk of having people staying at these locations attempting to drive into town when the booze runs out.”

According to Meadow Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Tim Korman, there are already privately run liquor stores in this province, but he doesn’t think all liquor stores would ever go private.

“Meadow Lake has a provincial liquor store and the Milltown Pub provides off-sales,” Korman said.

Meanwhile, Trevor Barden, owner of Garfunkel’s Gourmet Grill in Meadow Lake and manager of the local Super 8 Motel, said he doesn’t believe the new regulations will have much of an impact on his operations.

“I did hear about the changes, but nothing has been passed on to me formally,” Barden said. “I already have a motel attached to my restaurant, so I could sell off-sales if I wanted to. I choose not to do that because I don’t want the riff raff.”

As for a bring-your-own-wine service, Barden said he can’t envision any business in the Meadow Lake area choosing to go this route.

“I’d have an issue with someone coming to my restaurant to drink their own wine and taking up a table that could possibly go to a paying customer,” he said.

For a complete list of the new regulations, visit http://www.gov.sk.ca.

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