The first day of Rankin Inlet’s new beer and wine store saw 444 customers spend just under $32,000 on alcoholic beverages.

“The opening went quite well,” said Daniel Young, director of the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission, referring to Dec. 4. “It was not overly busy like we had worried for opening day.”

He commended the well-trained staff for their customer service.

Despite being the initial day operation, Young was impressed by the store’s six staff plus a manager, whose average fill time per order was only 48 seconds.

“It was quite efficient,” he said.

Many comments on social media expressed pessimism and dismay about the store. Kivalliq News reached out to several commenters for additional thoughts.

Veronica Angotingoar said she cried when she saw news of the beer and wine store opening.

“It brought back a lot of sad memories when I saw that post,” she said. “We need a lot of things in Rankin other than a beer and wine store. Let’s look after our community, let’s look after our people first before we open up a wine and beer store.”

She added that “maybe I’m just being a mother” and recognized not everyone would agree with her. Traumatic visions from childhood inform her opinion now.

“I was a very young child during the time Hudson’s Bay in Rankin Inlet used to sell beer,” she said. “I’ve seen what alcohol can do to people who cannot handle it, even within my own home. It’s good for people who are able to handle it and just have a few and leave it, but it’s not that great for some people that cannot handle it.”

Another commenter who chose to remain anonymous said there are pros and cons to everything.

“It can be good for people to purchase at a reasonable price instead of buying $150-200 bottles and then having to buy another one if they still want to continue,” said the individual. “Parents need to be accountable and make priorities.”

Taina Aliyak Kubluitok noted that residents voted for the store and it’s good for those who occasionally drink alcohol at the end of the night. However, she worries about the potential for child neglect and Elder abuse.

She noted some of the negative repercussions she saw from the beer and wine store in Iqaluit this past summer.

“My boys ages seven and nine witnessed seeing a lot of drunks and happily saying that they saw a drunk,” said Kubluitok, adding that the experience was an eye-opener for innocent children who don’t know what’s good or bad yet.

Although most government operations shut down over the holidays, the beer and wine store will have a handful of opening days over the Christmas holidays. Young said this is to make sure there’s a constant legal supply of low-alcohol content liquor for those who want to purchase alcohol. People can still purchase higher-alcohol content liquor from the NULC, but they have to order it instead of walking in to the store.

The journey to the Rankin Inlet liquor outlet began in 2012, when the Department of Finance initiated a task force to meet with every community in the territory to discuss the impacts of liquor and how things could be improved. One solution presented from the ensuing report was increasing access to low-alcohol content alcohol to change behaviours around binge drinking and other related harms.

“Essentially, the philosophy is if people want to have liquor, they’re going to get it,” said Young. “We all recognize that bootlegging, and a lot of activities that possibly go along with that, are not good, and we’re looking at ways to change that by providing access.”

In 2017, the beer and wine store opened in Iqaluit. That same year, Rankin Inlet voters chose in a plebiscite to have a similar store in their community.

Since the beer and wine store opened in Iqaluit, the amount of hard liquor being brought into the capital city has dropped by more than half.

“We think a lot of that drop has to do with people not having to rely on bootlegging anymore,” said Young, adding that it’s difficult to track statistics in illegal markets.

He was proud of the Rankin Inlet team’s work, especially being their first real day in action.

“I think anyone who comes into our store will see that they’re professional, and it’s a well-run operation,” he said. “Hopefully, they can see that we’re serving the community in the best way we see fit, knowing that not everybody is open to having a liquor store in their community.”

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