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Manitoba Eyes Wine Bars, Beverage Rooms Without Hotel Requirement and More

May 25, 2022 7:01 AM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Kelvin Goertzen

Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen is sworn in at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, on Jan. 18, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski)

WINNIPEG — Manitobans may soon have more places to raise a glass if a bill before the legislature becomes law.

The bill is aimed at simplifying the province’s licensing system, with its many categories that require a full kitchen for some operators, entertainment for others and on-site hotel rooms for many.

One proposed change would eliminate the need for beverage rooms — a type of licence that does not require a full kitchen — to have hotel rooms on the premises. The current rules require a minimum of four rooms in small communities and 40 in Winnipeg and Brandon.

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said he wasn’t sure why that requirement was put in place almost a century ago after the end of Prohibition.

“There wasn’t a lot of close connection between the serving of alcohol … and a hotel situation,” Goertzen said Tuesday.

“I don’t think that the expectation was that … people needed a place to sleep at night.”

The idea was not well received by many hotel owners consulted by the government. They told the provincial regulator — the Liquor, Cannabis and Gaming Authority of Manitoba — that they had invested a lot of money to meet the hotel-room requirement, the authority said in a written report on its consultations.

The bill would also let the provincial cabinet set up new categories of licences. That could pave the way for wine bars inside wine stores, Goertzen said. It would also make it easier for temporary summer outdoor bars, called ‘pop-ups’, to get a licence.

The changes, for the most part, were welcomed by the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association.

The group said competition from new entrants with less overhead could cause some problems, but the overall move to reduce red tape and make it easier to get a licence for modern alcohol distribution is a big plus.

“The problem is, is that these (current) licences really focus on business what it looked like 20, 30 years ago,” said Shaun Jeffrey, the association’s executive director.

Many restaurants could take advantage of the new flexible system to open temporary outdoor bars in the summer, Jeffrey said.

It’s not clear when the bill put forward by the Progressive Conservative government could become law. The legislature is scheduled to break for the summer next week.

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