With a change in vote by Counc. Rex McPhail, La Ronge Council passed the first reading of a bylaw Saturday at a special meeting which will dramatically effect how liquor is sold in town.
In a 4-3 vote, the sale, distribution and consumption of beverage alcohol and cannabis will be limited in the municipality on certain days and hours. According to the bylaw, liquor and cannabis stores will only be able to operate between the hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, while hours are reduced further to 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays and statutory holidays. Lounges, taverns and special-use facilities are bound by the same rules, but can serve alcohol as late as 1 a.m. from Monday to Saturday. The only change made to the bylaw from when it was first tabled at a regular meeting Nov. 28 is allowing bars to stay open to 1:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
Those who voted in favour of the bylaw aside from Rex McPhail included Deputy-Mayor Hugh Watt, as well as Councillors Matthew Klassen and Jordan McPhail, while Mayor Ron Woytowich and Councillors Dallas Everest and Glenn Watchel voted against it.
“I’m in support for it, but I’m not in support of bringing the change of hours by itself,” Watchel said prior to the vote. “If we don’t have anything else in place and we just change the hours, I think we’re setting it up for failure. I’d honestly like to table it until we bring all components in.”
Some of those extra components include requiring taxi companies to operate the same hours of bars, require specific signage be displayed anywhere alcohol is sold, require alcohol service areas to have restricted access at any event there are children and families, make amendments to allow a business license to be revoked after three violations and more.
In response to Watchel’s concerns about not having more elements of the Town of La Ronge Alcohol Strategy in place, Klassen noted the bylaw will be the first phase of several to happen in the future.
“What is attempted to be done here is to phase a portion of it and then phase another portion of it, and measure it to see if there are any positive outcomes coming out of it,” he said.
The second and third readings of the bylaw are both likely to occur Dec. 12 at a regular council meeting. Residents of La Ronge are encouraged to attend and share any concerns they have about it. If all goes as planned, the bylaw will come into force Jan. 1, 2019.
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