Councillors have unanimously decided to waive the business hours bylaw for Almost Midnight Madness set for Nov. 29.
The decision came during a regular meeting Nov. 12 after the Liquor Store manager Chad Jones requested council rescind the business hours bylaw. He said the business hours bylaw, which restricts the sale of liquor to 10 p.m. from liquor stores and off-sales, has been detrimental to his business.
Jones was reluctant to provide a number to councillors of how much money was lost but he did say summer is his busiest time of year. “We’ve had a negative impact.”
He does not feel council should restrict liquor sales hours when stores rules fall under the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) requirements.
“I would also like to point out that I don’t think the town’s citizens were really concerned with this matter,” said Jones.
During a public meeting one person spoke in favour of the bylaw while there were a few that spoke against it.
Coun. Carla Prediger asked if there has been an improvement in citizen safety since the bylaw was enacted. “Have we had any evaluation of the change?”
CAO Brad Watson has asked Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm if there is any statistics or concrete information but there is none as of yet. He did say Chisholm was monitoring the situation.
Coun. Tim Falkiner feels if the bylaw is actually a safety concern, then the bylaw should also affect serving alcohol. “I guess I’m baffled that this bylaw actually came about.”
“We have the AGLC that governs liquor sales in this province. They’re a very competent organization,” he added.
Gathering the necessary statistics takes time offered Coun. Loanna Gulka. She suggested the town should take a longer time to determine whether the bylaw is actually keeping the community safe. She asked Jones how much the loss of business was from a new liquor store in town.
“For first seven months it had no effect. In fact my numbers increased,” Jones replied.
Mayor Rick Bonnett said one liquor store owner spoke with him and asked about Almost Midnight Madness. The bylaw does not give allowance for special events. He wondered if there was a way to allow liquor stores the opportunity to stay open for an extra hour during the special day.
Falkiner wondered why council was considering putting in a waiver if it is actually a safety issue, as the last council said when it passed. He said he was not in favour of the bylaw but making consolations for dates such as the Ponoka Stampede and now a waiver for Almost Midnight Madness can become confusing. “So what’s next, Valentine’s Day?”
“We need to bring this back here. We need to have the information and we need to deal with the bylaw,” he added.
Falkiner suggested council look at the information pertaining to community safety and the bylaw before the Dec. 10 meeting and then they make a decision then. He feels this will give administration and residents time to gather information.
Jim Hamilton, owner of Hammy’s Spirits, said he told Bonnett and Watson he would be leaving his doors open only for the special day. He said he would not pay the fine and be prepared to face jail time as well because the bylaw was going against the spirit of Almost Midnight Madness.
“I just thought it was detrimental to the town,” said Hamilton in an interview.
He feels the bylaw does not benefit Ponoka businesses and has been against the decision since it was first proposed.