Job losses are expected as a new bylaw to control the sale of alcohol in La Ronge is likely to come into effect by New Year’s Day.
In January alone, Northland Motor Hotel Manager Tania Colbert said her business will lose 299 operating hours, which will force her to layoff employees and cut back on paycheques. In total, she noted hours lost for both the bar and cold beer and wine store will work out to 3,588 hours per year. Just down the road at La Ronge Hotel and Suites, similar hours will be eliminated as the business runs a lounge, bar and off-sale. Kostas Family Restaurant owner Carmen Vancoughnett also estimates her business will be out 520 operating hours per year.
“This isn’t a solution to alcoholism,” Colbert said. “They need to get to the root cause and they were given ideas on how to do it and decided not to start that way.”
Colbert is against the limited hours for liquor establishments La Ronge Council plans to put in place. She noted it will harm families as there will be less work in a town with a high unemployment rate already. The new bylaw, Colbert believes, is over-reaching and shed criticized how seven people can make such a drastic decision on behalf of thousands of residents.
As the bylaw will have such an affect on her business, Colbert said she is exploring legal advice on the matter. She said town council met with business owners previous to the first reading of the bylaw and came up with ideas fair to both sides, and is disheartened as she feels those talks went nowhere.
“My thoughts are the town shouldn’t be able to dictate our hours,” Colbert said. “We don’t do it to their businesses, why are they able to do it to ours?”
For those who will likely be out of work in January due to the bylaw, La Ronge Coun. Jordan McPhail said the town has no supports in place to help residents find other local jobs. Instead, he said people should be focusing on the economic impact that should transpire due to the access of alcohol becoming more restricted. He said data from the Community Alcohol Management Plan (CAMP) showed people will likely miss less days of work or school, there will be fewer visits to the emergency room and a decrease in domestic violence.
“As far as what the town would be doing to mitigate any hours lost, that really hasn’t been in any part of our discussions,” McPhail said. “I think [having] alcohol being sold as late as 3 a.m. is a bit late in my opinion and shared by many of the community members as well.”
In a CAMP survey conducted in 2017, 90 per cent of 174 respondents answered they’d like to see law or policies made related to alcohol. Out of 160 respondents, 63 per cent wanted changes to off-sale hours while 53 per cent wanted changes to bar hours. The same survey also noted 61 per cent of respondents want the sale of alcohol prohibited at sporting events, rising to 72 per cent for events where children are present. La Ronge Council doesn’t have any current plans to prohibit the sale of alcohol at events like Ice Wolves games and other local fundraisers run by non-profits or charitable groups.
La Ronge Council, according to a media release in May, does have plans however to force taxi companies to stay open as late as bars. This has already proven worrisome for cab owners with one stating doing so would shut his business down.
The “[alcohol strategy] is not in stone. It is part of the policy options given to council,” McPhail said.
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