When you absolutely, positively have to watch hockey in a bar, provincial liquor authorities have cleared the way for you to do that during the wee hours of a Sunday morning.
Dozens of Manitoba bars and restaurants have been permitted to serve booze during the broadcast from Russia of the Olympic hockey gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden, which starts at 6 a.m. Sunday (Manitoba time).
Normally, liquor licensees aren't allowed to open that early. But with the province poised to ease up on liquor regulations, Manitoba lounges, dining rooms, cabarets, private clubs and beverage rooms were invited to apply for a special permit that will allow them to open at 5 a.m.
A total of 76 applications were received and permitted, said Elizabeth Stephenson, chief administrative officer for the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba.
All of them must comply with the terms of their existing licences, which means food must be available -- and in some cases, sold -- during the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Corydon Avenue restaurant Confusion Corner Bar & Grill, for example, plans to open at 5:30 a.m. and charge its clientele $10 for a buffet breakfast. Manager François Allard-Cramer said he's expecting hardcore hockey fans -- not boozehounds who've been up all night.
"If they've been drinking the night before, I don't think they'll make it to 6 a.m.," he said. "If you're already intoxicated, we won't be serving you. That's how the law works."
Liquor authorities chose to go the permit route rather than issue a blanket offer to open early to all 1,600 Manitoba licensees to open early because the province has no experience with hours of this sort, Stephenson said.
"We've never done this before," she said. "This is the first time they've been permitted to open this early, so we want to assess how well it goes."
While some liquor-serving establishments requested special opening hours, a spokesman for the Selinger government said the province is also eager to show it's become more flexible with regard to alcohol.
The province expects to enact a new package of liquor regulations in April. The changes include slashing the number of alcohol-licence categories from 12 to three in order to cut down on some red tape associated with liquor licensing.