New events for all ages at Yellowknife bars have raised eyebrows for some because children and booze are at the same tables. 

The Top Knight Pub and Woodyard Brewery now host weekend family brunches that serve alcohol and grant access to patrons under the legal drinking age. 

While the events may be recent additions to the Yellowknife bar scene, the laws that allow them have been in effect since 2008 – when the NWT’s liquor act and regulations governing liquor licences was last updated.

Jaimie Graham, general manager of the NWT Liquor Licensing Board, explained the all ages events are possible through two types of licences. 

NWT Brewing Co-Owners Fletcher and Miranda Stevens  enjoy family brunch with their son Casey.
photo courtesy of NWT Brewing Company.

A Class A, or liquor primary, liquor licence is for establishments whose primary purpose is the sale and service of liquor. This is what probably comes to mind when most people think of bars. Minors are not permitted in businesses with only Class A licences.

A Class B, or food primary, licence is for establishments whose primary purpose is the sale and service of meals. Class B licences are what allow restaurant-goers to order a drink with dinner, for example. With Class B licences, businesses must generate revenue primarily from selling food. 

One establishment can hold both licences, as long as they are not in use at the same time. 

A business can designate one part of the establishment as Class A, and another part as Class B, as long as those parts are clearly separated. That’s why some businesses have a family dining area, where children are allowed, as well as a more traditional bar. 

A business can also designate which licence they’re using at different dates and times. That’s how Yellowknife bars are able to hold family events at specified time slots where food becomes their main focus, while maintaining liquor primary bar status the rest of the week.  

Since the beginning of the month, the Top Knight and Woodyard have been inviting Yellowknifers of all ages to enjoy their food at weekend family brunch events. To make this possible, food-primary licences are enacted at the Top Knight on Saturdays, and all weekend long at the Woodyard. 

The establishments are required to report their sales to the liquor licensing board at regular intervals to ensure they are in compliance with regulations.

Mel Leonard, marketing and communications manager at the NWT Brewing Company, said the all ages event has been a big hit. He said the bar has been looking to host family-friendly services for some time and providing new offerings is crucial to staying afloat during the pandemic. 

“The survivability of small businesses rely on how they pivot,” Leonard said. “One more option in town is always a plus.”

He assured that the Woodyard hasn’t turned into “a sea of kids” on weekends.

“We still get our regular customers,” he said, “our regulars just now bring their kids.”

“It’s a diverse mix. It’s not like a night and day switch where suddenly we’re now Chuck E. Cheese.”

As family dining is new to the brewing company, and capacity continues to be limited based on public health restrictions, Leonard said “people have been very patient” in regards to busy wait times.

He admitted the process of applying for the second liquor licence was at times “redundant” with the bar’s already acquired Class A licence, but because the weekend events have been busy, he said the family hours are here for at least the foreseeable future. 

Natalie Pressman

Reporting courts and cops and general news, Natalie started with NNSL Media in 2020. Before moving to Yellowknife, Natalie worked as a community radio trainer in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent First...

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