Ponoka repeals liquor sales bylaw

The Town of Ponoka took less than a year to decide that its new liquor sales bylaw didn’t work.

The Town of Ponoka took less than a year to decide that its new liquor sales bylaw didn’t work.

Town council voted to repeal the bylaw at a recent meeting, despite statistics compiled by the RCMP that showed a drop in alcohol-related calls, especially downtown.

The bylaw came into effect on July 7. It quickly became a controversial tipping point for some candidates in the October election, resulting in a near complete turnover of council.

For Mayor Rick Bonnett, repealing the bylaw was akin to putting an open-for-business sign up.

“From what I was hearing from the business side is that the reason they weren’t having issues downtown is because nobody was coming downtown either,” he said. “If you don’t have people in your downtown, then you’re not going to have businesses down there either.”

The bylaw restricted the hours alcohol could be sold by liquor stores and hotel liquor off-sale (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and by delivery (ending at 10:30 p.m.). Rules have reverted back to Alberta Gaming Liquor Commission regulations that permits the sale of alcohol from any licensed establishment between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m.

The bylaw was put into affect following a spike in impaired driving cases in the town, giving it the highest rate in the country in 2012. The rate of 1,181 impaired drivers per 100,000 population was 2.62 times the provincial rate of 450 per 100,000.

Wetaskiwin enacted a similar liquor bylaw in 2010, pushing late liquor sales further south on Hwy 2 to Ponoka.

In the first six months of the bylaw, RCMP saw a noticeable drop in statistics across the board.

Over the same July 7 to Dec. 16 period, impaired driving charges fell 46 per cent, disturbing the peace calls between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. fell by 22 per cent, domestic violence decreased by 46 per cent, and assault charges between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. fell 23 per cent.

Coun. Loanna Gulka was the only councillor to vote in favour of keeping the bylaw. Gulka said council has not had enough time to really see its full impact. The final vote was 4-1 to repeal it.

“I find it very disappointing,” she said. “A lot of time and effort went into it. We spoke to a lot of experts and had a lot of experts present to us. I would have liked to see it run its course for the two to three years that they recommended to see if it was really working or not.”

There were other issues, said Bonnett.

There was the concern they were just pushing the problem down the road to Lacombe or to Camrose. He believes it should be a provincial issue, that the rules should be the same across the board and that it is the jurisdiction of the gaming and liquor commission.

Tatjana Laskovic, communications officer for the commission, said that while the provincial body has set hours for sale of alcohol, each municipality is within their rights to deviate from those hours. She also said there is no plan for the provincial liquor commission to alter these regulations in the near future.

Ponoka was also often dealing with requests to expand the hours for certain days like during the Ponoka Stampede and New Year’s Eve.

The mayor says Ponoka needs to look at different ways to deal with alcohol issues in the community.

Bonnett says the town is considering a conduct bylaw that will see heavy municipal fines, on top of fines through the Criminal Code, doled out for instances of fighting, public urination/defecation and graffiti, among other violations. But he wants the public to show that they can police themselves before moving ahead with this action.

“We’re thinking of making those fines substantial so it really makes you think twice about it. Especially in Alberta, we’re in the oilpatch and we have that high-spending, bigger and bigger wallet attitude who look at a $150 fine and go ‘Whatever,’ ” said Bonnett. “We’re hoping people learn to conduct themselves in a proper manner.”

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Royal Bank replaces Shopify as most valuable company as TSX hits intraday high

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

As spring nears, houseplants feel it too and can get unruly

A couple walks past a vandalized mural depicting world's first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in Madrid, Spain, Monday, March 8, 2021. At least two street murals celebrating accomplished women in politics, arts and science have appeared covered in black paint over the weekend. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Defying pandemic, feminists in Spain decry far-right attacks

Demonstrators march through downtown Minneapolis following protests near the Hennepin County Government Center, Monday, March 8, 2021, in Minneapolis where the trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with jury selection. Chauvin is charged with murder in the death of George Floyd during an arrest last May in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

Fiery chants for justice from marchers at Chauvin trial

This image provided by The Alexandria (Va.) Sheriff's Office shows Jacob Chansley. A judge ordered corrections authorities to provide organic food to the Arizona man who is accused of participating in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol while sporting face paint, no shirt and a furry hat with horns. He was moved from the Washington jail to the Virginia facility. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP)
Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Arizona man who wore horns in Capitol riot to remain jailed

Anti-coup protesters discharge fire extinguishers to counter the impact of the tear gas fired by police during a demonstration in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Monday, March 8, 2021. The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is raising pressure for more sanctions against the junta, even as countries struggle over how to best sway military leaders inured to global condemnation. (AP Photo)
Myanmar protesters defy curfew; media outlets ordered shut

YANGON, Myanmar — Demonstrators in Myanmar’s biggest city came out Monday night… Continue reading

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa on March 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19 magnified systemic discrimination against Indigenous women: Bennett

COVID-19 magnified systemic discrimination against Indigenous women: Bennett

Most Read