The business community in Yellowknife welcomes the GNWT’s regulatory change allowing bars and restaurants to sell alcohol for take-out and delivery.

“We’re pretty excited that they’re making this change,” said Fletcher Stevens, co-owner of Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery, on Saturday.

“It’s obviously something that will benefit our business during these uncertain times of the Covid pandemic. It opens the door to be able to deliver to the other side of town where people might not feel comfortable coming out of their houses these days. We’ve had customers express concerns about gathering in busy liquor stores. It’s not so much about selling alcohol as it’s about keeping our business afloat while we’re forced to be closed,” he explained.

Fletcher Stevens, co-owner of NWT Brewing Company and the Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery, is glad the GNWT has amended liquor regulations to permit bars and restaurants to sell alcohol through deliveries. NNSL file photo.

The GNWT’s regulatory amendment was announced on Friday and allows “all Class A and Class B licensed establishments in the NWT to sell beer, wine and spirits for take-out and delivery without the need for an off-premises extension to their licence,” said the government in a news release.

Previously, bars (Class A) and restaurants that serve alcohol (Class B) that had an off-premises extension to their licence could only sell beer and delivery was prohibited.

The regulation changes are aimed at helping bars and restaurants stay in business and keep staff employed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Woodyard had already been offering take-out sales of its own beer and Stevens said many customers were buying more growlers of beer than before the pandemic so they could stock up.

“I feel now the frequency (of sales) might increase and the numbers might go back to where they were before. There will be the convenience of not having to leave the house and people can get a delivery once a week or so,” he said.

As businesses in Yellowknife shuttered in late March and early April, the Woodyard’s sales dropped and it has a large amount of product sitting around.

“We’re starting to build up a pretty big surplus and the longer it sits the quality starts to go down. We’re looking forward to this being an opportunity to getting our product moving again. And the NWT is now one step closer to doing what the rest of Canada is doing with its alcohol regulations,” Stevens said.

Logistics such as the possibility of delivery charges for alcohol and the hiring of drivers would be worked out before the planned start of deliveries after the Victoria Day long weekend.

The Monkey Tree pub is also pleased with the regulatory change.

“We are happy it finally happened. We have been requesting this change since the shut down and while I appreciate that it has been done, I do think it took way too long to be put in place. We have added booze to our pick-up menu and will begin delivery next week,” said owner Jen Vornbrock.

The new rules have some conditions:

  • Class B license holders can only sell alcohol in combination with food
  • Licensed establishments must use their own, in-house delivery service to deliver alcohol and not taxis or other private delivery services
  • Alcohol take-out or delivery sales on Sundays or after 10 p.m. are prohibited
  • Take-out and delivery sales of alcohol are limited to 1.5 L of wine per day, per customer (two 750 ml bottles of wine); one 1.14 L of spirits per day, per customer (or a 40 oz. bottle); or 8.52 L of beer per day, per customer (twenty-four 355 ml cans)

The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce also commended the GNWT on the change. The Chamber’s sub-committee, the Business Resilience Working Group (BRWG), has been calling on the GNWT to allow liquor deliveries for businesses that sell alcohol along with food since April.

RELATED REPORTING: Yk Chamber of Commerce calls for more relief for business

“We are excited to announce that the BRWG’s territorial recommendation #2 has been fulfilled! We’d like to do a shout-out to Minister of Finance, the Honourable Caroline Wawzonek! Thank you!” the Chamber said in a statement.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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