Elected officials and city administration have been lobbying the provincial government about reducing the Thompson Liquor Mart’s hours but the head of the city’s RCMP detachment told a committee Jan. 19 that shorter hours on Sunday don’t make much of a difference to public intoxication complaints.
Insp. Chris Hastie was asked by Coun. Kathy Valentino at Tuesday’s recreation and community services meeting if he thought there would be an effect if the hours of the store were reduced on Sundays.
“I don’t see any impact on policing operations on Sunday,” Hastie said. “I notice less volume of complaints on statutory holidays when sometimes the liquor store is closed for a day but I really don’t see any impact on a Sunday.”
Liquor Mart is only open for seven hours on Sundays, compared to 10 hours most other days of the week and 11 hours on Friday. The provincial government recently changed legislation so that retail stores in Manitoba no longer have to close at 6 p.m. on Sundays, but municipalities have the option of introducing their own restrictions. Valentino said at the Jan. 18 council meeting that this might provide an opportunity for Thompson to limit the hours on Sunday
Committee chairperson Coun. Braden McMurdo said he was surprised that Hastie didn’t think limiting hours would make a difference.
“It’s my understanding they sell several hundred bottles of Westminster a day which goes to the downtown core of people and it seems from since I’ve been on council and getting the RCMP stats that there’s usually a spike in intoxicated persons detained over the weekend,” said McMurdo.
Thompson’s Liquor Mart sold more than 60,000 bottles of Westminster Canadian Apera, which must be requested from the cashiers, every year from 2016 through 2018.
Hastie said the biggest effect on public intoxication complaints in Thompson is the date when people receive government assistance checks.
Making alcohol less easily available might also lead to different problems, said Coun. Les Ellsworth.
“There’s no one that would be more interested in closing that liquor store than I would be, let alone reducing hours,” Ellsowrth said. “At the end of the day, if the liquor store’s not open I believe that we would see more crime and you’d have more bootleggers out on the Sundays, the holidays and whatnot. In one way, absolutely we could look at reducing the hours. The other way, we could use more police because of the bootleggers. I don’t know if there’s a win-win there at all.”
Hastie agreed with Ellsworth’s point about reduced hours only moving or changing a problem, rather than solving it.
“Addiction reigns supreme in many cases in Thompson and if you can’t find alcohol at a government liquor store or elsewhere you’ll seek the bootlegger,” he said, while some people who can’t get alcohol turn to even more harmful substances like hair spray, hand sanitizer and mouthwash.