Fletcher Stevens is hoping requests from more Yellowknife businesses will push the NWT Liquor Licensing Board to reverse its decision blocking his brewery from privately handling distribution.
Last week the board rejected the request, made by the Explorer Hotel, to purchase beer directly from NWT Brewing.
Since Yellowknifer broke the story, Stevens says he’s been deluged with support. He says Coyote’s Bistro, Boston Pizza, Chateau Nova and Aurora Village have all reached out to him.
“They want to carry our product,” he said. “I’ve told everybody that’s reached out to me to write the letter to the board and request to purchase and carry our product.”
Jason Perrino, owner of Twist & Shout, already has his pencil sharpened.
“I want to be able to buy it direct from them, so that I don’t have to pay extra fees,” he said.
Those extra fees cover administration and use of the NWT Liquor Commission’s warehouse. Stevens estimates this surcharge, coupled with one of the highest beer taxes in Canada, make his beer about $100 more per keg than it costs major breweries to send their suds up from the south. Perrino says that means he would have to sell NWT Brewing beer at about $12 a pint.
“It’s holding back our business,” said Stevens, adding he’s already got the storing capabilities and infrastructure to handle distribution himself.
Jaimie Graham, general manager for the NWT Liquor Licensing Board, told Yellowknifer the board does not discuss specific cases brought before it. Requests to speak with members of the board were not granted by press time. The board, appointed by the Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod, is currently made up of Michael Hansen, Heather Bourassa, Wayne Smith and Linda Martin. The chair position is currently vacant and Adelle Guigon fills the vice-chair position. Each member earns up to $325 per day for their service on the board.
A licence holder can appeal decisions or orders made by the board to the Supreme Court. Perrino said he plans to go to the minister if necessary.
Yellowknifer requested a comment from McLeod, but he wasn’t available.
Fletcher said although he appreciates the support he’s received, he’s not hopeful the board will relent.
“We want to be able to get our brewery and our product into other establishments because it’s just going to help the economy in Yellowknife as a whole,” he said. “We’re seeing the big picture – if they want to keep the way they are they’re just basically cutting out everybody else that can benefit from the infrastructure that we’re building.”