The town of La Ronge is throwing its support behind changes around the use and sale of alcohol.
According to a recent survey in the tri-community area, there is overwhelming support for changes to local alcohol bylaws and policy.
The survey was administered in the fall and wrapped up at the end of December.
Of the nearly 500 people surveyed, 95 per cent believe there is an alcohol-related problem in the area. Seventy-six per cent supported some type of policy change to counteract the perceived problem, while 72 per cent believe the hours for liquor sales in the community should be reduced.
According to Matt Klassen, a La Ronge town councillor, these results have reinforced council’s position to adopt several changes.
“It is important to remember when conducting a survey, typically when someone is in favour, they are way less likely to respond to the survey,” said Klassen. “However, if someone is dead against it, they are most likely to respond, so seeing numbers like this are staggering.”
In June of last year, council was presented with nearly 30 proposed changes in their alcohol policy by the Northern Alcohol Strategy. Among the most contentious proposed change was the reduction of the sale of alcohol on Sundays, stat holidays, paydays and child tax benefit days. Other proposed changes included pursuit of a managed alcohol program in the region, calls for improved monitoring of liquor vendors and enforcement of compliance with provincial and municipal laws, no sales of alcohol in bars or off sale before 11 a.m., no off-sale after 11 p.m., no alcohol sales at bars and community events after 1 a.m., along with several others.
At the June meeting, council voted to accept the motions in principle as presented, but had concerns around two issues. Council wanted further consultation over the suggestion to reduce the hours for alcohol sales in La Ronge, another was clarity over a policy change that could impact the sale of alcohol at La Ronge Ice Wolves games.
With the survey results, council officially voted five to two in favour on Wednesday night’s meeting to officially move forward with these proposed changes. The motion puts council’s support behind the proposed changes. Included in the motion is clarity that the Ice Wolves will still be able to sell alcohol at their games, but must do so in a designated “beer gardens” away from the on-ice competition.
La Ronge Mayor, Ron Woytowich, was one of the two who voted against the motion. He says the reason he voted against the motion was because he didn’t agree with putting all of the proposed changes together and believes council should vote on them independently.
“Many of the proposed changes I agree with, but there are a few I disagree with,” Woytowich told MBC.
Council also voted unanimously to introduce a five per cent levy on alcohol sales to be used for funding initiatives for public safety and well-being.
“There are going to be residents who oppose certain aspects of the plan, however, I think we can all agree if any of these options can save one life it is worth it,” said Klassen.
Klassen admits, nothing has been set in stone yet and this will be a phased implementation plan, as the town still needs to consult with surrounding communities and the province before officially implementing any of the new policies. He says they will continue to monitor every possible change and administer amendments as needed. Klassen was also unwilling to give any sort of timeline as to when these changes could take effect.
However, the town councillor does say he is confident the proposed changes will go through as presented and believes they will bring a positive change to the community.
“It can work here and it has worked in other locations,” said Klassen.
More public forums and consultations are expected in the near future.
MOTIONS RELATED TO ALCOHOL POLICY AND BYLAWS PASSED DURING DECEMBER 10, 2018 LA RONGE TOWN COUNCIL MEETING:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the La Ronge Council supports the following actions and policy options to address alcohol related harm in the region:
- pursuit of a managed alcohol program in the region;
- calls for improved monitoring of liquor vendors and enforcement of compliance with provincial and municipal laws;
- capping outlet density upper thresholds in the municipality for both bars and off sale outlets at existing levels, with consideration for future licensed dining establishments;
- no sales of alcohol in bars or off sale before 11:00 am;
- no off sale after 11:00 pm;
- no alcohol sales at bars and community events after 1:00 am;
- support limiting alcohol sales on Sundays, statutory holidays, month-end paydays and Canada Child Benefit payment days, except for licensed dining, in consultation with neighbouring communities in the region to initiate a “feed the children first” approach;
- pursue a free permit for purchases of large amounts of alcohol, over a set personal use limit, to support outlying communities in addressing bootlegging;
- supports the establishment of a database by SLGA to track sales of alcohol to support outlying communities in addressing bootlegging;
- explore options to have taxis provide service as late as liquor retailers stay open;
- explore options to have liquor vendors and events serving alcohol to ensure safe transportation home is available;
- require retailers to refuse the sale of non-beverage alcohol items without a minimum $30.00 purchase of additional items not containing alcohol;
- require liquor retailers and events to provide non-alcoholic beverages to designated drivers at low cost or at no charge;
- prohibit liquor retailers and special events from announcing last call;
- require proof of liability insurance before a special occasion permit to serve alcohol on community-owner property is approved;
- mandatory serve it right training for all volunteers or staff serving alcohol;
- mandatory entrance monitoring and ID checks at all liquor vendors and events serving alcohol;
- required signage where alcohol sales occur including:
- Servers are required by law not to serve anyone to the point of intoxication
- Thank you for not driving impaired. Taxi contact info…
- Contact info for the Town, SLGA, RCMP
- Alcohol must not be served to people under 19 years of age. Photo ID required.
- We appreciate our DD’s and thank them for their contribution to the safety of our community.
- There will be no last call.
- Give your child a good start. FASD is preventable. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, please do not drink alcohol.;
- Work to meet the needs of the safety and wellbeing of the community, as well as the fundraising efforts of community based organizations at events involving children and families by requiring special use and special occasion permits that include measures to ensure alcohol sales are in a contained or designated area that is not the focal point of the event and mandatory server training for all involved in the sale of alcohol;
- Explore amendment of town bylaws to require revocation of a business license if three (3) instances of noncompliance are documented;
- Require that unused tickets can be redeemed for cash at events until closing time;
- Requiring permit holders at special events to provide proof of liability insurance ($1 million minimum) to the municipal representative at least 14 days prior to events held on municipal property;
- Council directs administration to work with Northern Municipal Services to draft bylaw(s) and complete policy amendments in preparation for implementation;
- Council directs administration to begin to explore a phased approach to implementation. Implementation will include:
- orienting Council,
- staff orientation and training,
- informing and consulting with neighbouring communities and requesting the adoption of complimentary policies where relevant,
- event staff roles and responsibilities,
- support of server training roll out,
- informing community members,
- producing and posting signage on municipal property,
- implementing administration practices, and
- annual review of policy.;
- Council commits to hosting a public forum for citizens and advertising of the municipal alcohol policy and changes to bylaws prior to implementation;
- Council commits to annual review of the municipal alcohol policy informed by ongoing regional data collection on alcohol related harm.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the La Ronge Council directs Administration to pursue a local levy on alcohol sales in the amount of 5% to be designated for funding initiatives to increase the public safety and wellbeing of the community. These initiatives should include, in part:
- Council orientation
- Staff orientation and training
- Informing neighboring communities and requesting the adoption of complimentary policies where relevant
- Informing community members
- Implementing administration practices
- Annual review of policy
- Commitment from Council to host a public forum for citizens and advertising of the municipal alcohol policy and changes to bylaws prior to implementation;
- Commitment from Council to review the municipal alcohol policy on an annual basis
(PHOTO: La Ronge town council. File photo.)