Of the territory’s liquor laws, the one that defines liquor permits might be the most archaic.As it is written right now, if an NWT restaurateur offers a full menu but won’t necessarily derive his or her profits primarily from food, that business will be granted a Class A, or liquor-primary liquor licence.
For example, there are a handful of restaurants in town that see a bustling brunch, lunch and dinner service but stay open past the dinner rush to serve drinks through the evening. One of the catches of having this licence is the establishment, being bureaucratically designated “liquor primary” cannot allow customers under 19 inside.
This blunt dividing line puts bustling pubs with full menus such as Twist & Shout, the Black Knight, the Woodyard Brewpub and The Cellar on the same level as a place such as The Raven, which is essentially a venue and dance club.
The territorial government – its politicians at least – love to make a big show about making the territory more business friendly and welcoming to tourists. But there is nothing more unwelcoming to business than forcing restaurant owners to turn away families. As well, there is nothing more unwelcoming to tourists than to be denied service at one of the city’s fine establishments because parents might have a toddler, pre-teen or (gasp!) an 18-year-old in tow.
Now, Yellowknifer isn’t suggesting allowing babies to belly up to the bar or junior kindergartners to sing karaoke on Saturday nights. But many of the city’s liquor primary establishments offer a great brunch, and there is no reason to bar kids from eggs and pancakes, even if there is a side mimosa for mom or dad.
Many other Canadian jurisdictions now allow families to dine in pubs. The solution is simple – amend the NWT’s Class A liquor licence to give business owners the option of allowing children in until a certain time – say 9 p.m. That way, families can partake in brunch, lunch and dinner service and establishments turn into adult-only affairs after youngsters’ bedtime.
Loosening the laws should be a simple fix, so hopefully the Department of Finance, which is responsible for the Liquor Act, is listening.
New home needed for visitor’s centre
One of the few economic success stories to come out of the territory over the past few years is tourism.
People love the aurora, the fantastic hunting and fishing opportunities, the beautiful lakes and trails, camping and Indigenous culture. According to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment website, the tourism industry pulled in a massive $146 million in 2015 and the department hopes to see that number rise to more than $200 million in 2020.
Considering tourism has become a beautiful cash cow for the territorial government, it’s mind-boggling there are no plans publicized to replace or rebuild the visitor’s centre.
Whether they stay in Yellowknife or head out to the communities, the capital city is a hub for tourists. In fact, the visitor’s centre saw 50,000 of them walk through the door last year. An industry this size deserves a well-funded, well-maintained and welcoming spot to guide tourists to Yellowknife’s best restaurants, galleries, trails, camping sites, swimming holes and everything else the territory has to offer. A temporary desk at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is certainly appreciated, but a lack of a long-term plan to back it up is unfathomable.
Whether the centre, which needs space for RV parking, is rebuilt in the same spot, down Highway 4 or along Highway 3 heading into the city is neither here nor there. Yellowknifer just wants to see the territorial government get proactive in supporting an industry that has grown to provide such a big economic support for government and private sector alike.