Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2011 (3703 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Steinbach is headed for another liquor referendum on Oct. 26. Just don't stop the presses. It's the seventh time.
Winnipeg always gets a giant smirk on its face whenever Steinbach grapples with its liquor bylaws. Liquor votes in Steinbach tend to make Winnipeggers feel incredibly smug and sophisticated, like Mr. Ziffle getting uppity with store owner Sam Drucker on the Green Acres TV series.
It's not that Steinbach is so ultra-democratic that it wants to vote on everything. It's just caught up in a vortex of "Manitoba's archaic liquor laws," as one city official called them.
That is, because Steinbach voted for prohibition on all liquor sales in 1950, it now has to hold a referendum to repeal any of the 12 licences governing alcohol in Manitoba today. Similar prohibition bylaws exist in about a dozen other Manitoba municipalities, mostly because RMs are too lazy to remove them.
Steinbach has had two liquor referendums in the past decade. In 2003, a vote approved a licence for serving liquor with meals in restaurants. The city's first government liquor store opened a year or so ago.
As well, Steinbach has always had the Frantz Motor Inn beverage room in the RM of La Broquerie. It's on Steinbach's southeast border but so seamlessly that you'd think it's part of the city. In other words, Steinbach may have been dry but it was never parched.
The latest referendum is prompted by Boston Pizza. The food chain wants to build a restaurant in Steinbach but only if it can get a cocktail lounge licence. The lounge licence was defeated by nine votes in Steinbach's last liquor referendum, in 2007. Boston Pizza has promised to erect a $1 million building and create 65 to 80 jobs.
Also, the Steinbach Curling Club is seeking a private-club licence so it doesn't have to keep taking out temporary licences at a cost of $100 per week. With a club licence, it would pay $300 for the year.
Finally, council tacked on a question about a beverage-room licence because it says any future hotel or convention centre would want one.
The questions on the ballot will be:
(1) Beverage Room Licence -- FOR or AGAINST.
(2) Cocktail Lounge Licence -- FOR or AGAINST.
(3) Private Club Licence -- FOR or AGAINST.
The voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Steinbach 55 Plus Seniors Centre.
Right there, that sounds bad for the "wets" (the For vote). If you show up at the seniors centre looking a bit scruffy and in the 18-30-year-old category, it's For. It's got to be For. And someone at the Seniors 55 will have notified your parents before you get home. If you show up clean-cut and presentable, it's definitely Against -- or else an elaborate disguise.
It's not really so, explained Linda Peters, the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce executive director. All polls, including recent elections, are located at the 55 Plus centre. Seniors' events are cancelled for those days, so it's pretty much an empty building.
Peters supports the licences for the jobs and economic growth they will bring. Other restaurants are waiting in the wings to see what happens with the vote, she said.
Some letter-writers in the local Carillon weekly newspaper have urged people to vote against granting the licences. David Reimer, a local pastor and former chamber president, argues more liquor sales won't make Steinbach progressive.
"Every time we lower our previously high standards, we further remove God's hand of protection and blessing," he wrote.
Another letter-writer urged residents to maintain the city's uniqueness and put an X on Against.
Why shouldn't a community decide? Look at Brandon, where residents voted against permitting a native-run casino in 2002 and 2008. People weren't impressed by the alleged economic benefits. Brandon may not bill itself as a faith-based community the way Steinbach does, but its British Protestant roots are a lot deeper than many people realize.
So which way does Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen plan to vote? He wasn't born yesterday. "I voted with the council. We voted unanimously just to have the referendum," is all he would say. Instead, he preferred to boast that Steinbach recently became Manitoba's third-largest city with a population of about 13,500, surpassing Thompson.
Referendum results will be made public the day after the Oct. 26 vote.
A history of Steinbach's liquor votes:
1950 -- Steinbach voted for the prohibition on liquor sales. However, a separate vote of 398 to 214 allowed the Tourist Hotel beverage room to stay open under a grandfather clause.
1973 -- Another referendum was held when the beverage room tried to expand and move to a new site. Permission for a new licence was defeated. So the Tourist Hotel moved to the RM of La Broquerie and became the Frantz Motor Inn.
1983 -- A referendum to serve beer or wine with meals was defeated by a 63 per cent majority.
1986 -- A dining-room liquor licence was defeated again.
1995 -- A dining-room liquor licence was defeated yet again.
2003 -- A referendum finally approved serving alcohol with meals in dining rooms.
2007 -- A referendum approved a sports facility licence, which allowed the local golf course to serve alcohol. Approval for a lounge licence was defeated by nine votes.