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Ponoka considers sales hour limits for liquor and pawn shops

Ponoka may limit sales hours for liquor stores and pawn shops.

Council passed first reading of a bylaw at its Nov. 27 meeting to restrict liquor store sales and hotel liquor off-sales to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Liquor delivery would end at 10:30 p.m.

Pawnshops would be restricted to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., under the proposed bylaw.

The bylaw is modelled on one in Wetaskiwin that has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2010.

In a memo to council, chief administrative officer Brad Watson and protective services director Ted Dillon say Ponoka has experienced “possible spinoff” from Wetaskiwin’s bylaw in that “patrons are now visiting the neighbouring communities whose business hours match their needs” and “RCMP have expressed a concern that this may be happening in this area.”

Unfounded rumours of a new liquor store with hours to 2 a.m. also spurred the bylaw.

“Rumour mongers got busy and so this council said let’s be proactive, let’s talk to the public and ask: Are there issues?” said Watson.

Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm of Ponoka RCMP declined to comment until an as-yet scheduled January public meeting.

“I’m not requesting this willy nilly. We have information composed of statistics and anecdotal evidence. It’s there for a reason,” Chisholm said.

Ponoka Coun. Doug Gill said at meetings with Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission officials in 2010 and 2011, some liquor store owners “said they could close by 10 p.m.”

He hopes the bylaw will make Ponoka a more “safe and caring community.”

Watson said the January meeting will “bring in not only the RCMP, but others in the community with influence on this: the hospital, Family and Community Support Services, the medical profession.”

Jim Hamilton, owner of Hammys Spirits, called the bylaw a mistake, saying council has no place in business affairs.

“It’s strictly a philosophical objection. Council has been lambasted over the years for not being pro-business and this is anti-business.”

He and his staff have experienced no problems with patrons who are drunk or loitering during later hours.

“We get customers who come in after 10 p.m. and they are people who appreciate it.”

Hamilton, who is also a Ponoka Chamber of Commerce vice-president, said the chamber will discuss the bylaw at its next meeting on Dec. 18.

Wetaskiwin Mayor Bill Elliot said his city’s bylaw works.

“According to the RCMP, hospital emergency ward and emergency services, they’ve seen a difference,” he said, adding that Wetaskiwin Victim Services also reports fewer family violence incidents.

Wetaskiwin RCMP prompted the bylaw in 2009 when it said 75 per cent of calls came after 11 p.m. and 75 per cent of those were alcohol-related.

Eliot said liquor store owners fretted about losing money. Yet since the bylaw’s passage, two more stores have opened.

“People plan around it, that’s all.”

Ponoka has six liquor stores, including a new Liquor Depot that opened last week and two off-sales locations.

There is one pawn shop in the town.

rfiedler@reddeeradvocate.com

 

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