“I hope that we get through this”: Alcohol curfew could hurt Saskatchewan bars, restaurants
PRINCE ALBERT -- All bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Saskatchewan will have to stop serving liquor at 10 p.m. starting Monday Nov. 16. Brad Dupuis, owner and general manager of the Shellbrook Hotel and Lou’s Bar, says an earlier last-call for alcohol isn’t good for business.
“We will definitely see a revenue loss,” he said. “A lot of our business on weekends comes in between the hours of 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., and obviously that’s going to be gone.”
The curfew for in-house alcohol sales will last 28 days, and then will be reviewed by Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab. Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health made the change to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the wake of an increase of new cases.
Dupuis laid off all his staff during the last mandated closure in March because of the lack of in-house liquor sales and the VLT shutdown. He says an increase in revenue from VLT sales that started July 6 has helped him pay bills.
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority increased the sales portion to vendors from 15 per cent to 25 per cent from July to Jan.3.
Dupuis says he’d like to province to extend the VLT increase at least until the pandemic is over.
He hopes people adapt to the changes and still come to the bar, but make their arrival earlier.
“Perhaps we’ll see a change in habits from the consumer,” he said. “Maybe we won’t, but I think it’s probably going to hurt.”
Owner of Amanda’s Pizza in Shellbrook Ron Weir says he’s pleased the province didn’t announce a second closure of restaurants and bars. He says for establishments like his that serve food and take-out, the early last-call won’t hurt his business as much.
“You have to go with the recommendations from the health authority on this one,” he said. “If they feel it’s an important step then I think we need to follow that.”
Weir says wage subsidies from the province and a loan from the federal government for businesses affected by the pandemic helped his business stay open, and that he’s grateful for patronage from people in the area.
“They’ve been extremely supportive,” he said. “I see all of our regular customers again and some new customers. Things are okay right now. I hope that we get through this.”
Dupuis says the province could do more, and “a rollback of the liquor consumption tax probably wouldn’t hurt either.”
The Saskatchewan Liquor Consumption Tax is currently a 10 per cent tax on the total sales price of beer, wine and spirits.
The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority says the increase is a “temporary measure,” and no further decision has been made to keep the increase in VLT revenue to vendors at 25 per cent after Jan. 3, and they are monitoring affect of the pandemic on business.
The Ministry of Health says all businesses should review the changes made to the Re-open Saskatchewan plan.
Mandatory masking in indoor public places has been extended to all communities with populations of 5,000 or greater.