December 13, 2019

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On scene at Liquor Mart: thief walks, staff watches

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Katja Smutny was in this liquor mart as it was being robbed. "They're not scared. They walk in and get what they want and walk out. The staff said 'don't do it', but the guy just walked out."</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Katja Smutny was in this liquor mart as it was being robbed. "They're not scared. They walk in and get what they want and walk out. The staff said 'don't do it', but the guy just walked out."

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/9/2018 (448 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Like any other customer, the calm and relaxed man nonchalantly walked out of a liquor store carrying two bottles of alcohol and continued across the parking lot and across a side street to get to Portage Avenue.

The only sign the man, in his late teens or early twenties, wasn't a typical customer? The liquor bottles weren't in brown paper bags.

Welcome to the world of liquor outlet robberies. Liquor store thieves in Winnipeg are now so brazen you might not even realize they are thieves even when one of them has walked past you.

Seconds before, at the Liquor Mart at Portage Avenue and Burnell Street on Thursday just after 1 p.m., the man had snatched two bottles of booze off a shelf and walked, not ran, out the front door while store employees and a security guard asked him repeatedly not to do it.

But outside, everything seemed so relaxed that when the man came out, just ahead of a woman carrying a box with a few bottles of alcohol, a Free Press reporter and photographer decided to speak to the woman heading to a nearby car instead of the man walking away.

The man was holding a bottle of liquor in one hand close to his chest and what appeared to be another under his jacket.

The bottle which could be seen appeared to be either a 750 mL or 1.14 L bottle of Malibu Coconut Rum which, the Liquor Mart's own website says, is the world's bestselling Caribbean rum, boasting natural coconut flavour and "the taste of Malibu, Barbados in a bottle."

The theft comes in the wake of numerous thefts in the last year and a few arrests in recent days. Many thefts have seen no injuries, but on Wednesday police said suspects arrested for some robberies have become violent, using bear spray on customers and liquor outlet staff and throwing bottles.

Last week, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries provided statistics that showed thieves stole about $800,000 worth of liquor in the last year and confirmed it had ordered its security guards not to try to stop them. Meanwhile, Winnipeg police confirmed there had been almost 1,300 thefts at liquor outlets during the same time.

MLL management has agreed to meet with the union representing liquor store employees before the end of the month and the union itself is suggesting it might be time to return to the era when customers had to approach a counter and order booze from an employee, who retrieved it from a secure area.

One customer at the store at the time of Thursday's robbery, Katja Smutny, said the thief walked past her just after she paid for her purchase.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Andreas Thompson with his partner Theressa Genaille and her daughter, said they hope somebody figures out how to stop the robberies before someone gets hurt.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Andreas Thompson with his partner Theressa Genaille and her daughter, said they hope somebody figures out how to stop the robberies before someone gets hurt.

"The employees couldn't do anything about it," Smutny said.

"He didn't try to hide it. He had it in his hand and he just walked out. What can they do?

"And they're (the thieves) not scared. They walk in and get what they want and walk out. The staff said 'don't do it', but the guy just walked out.

"I wasn't fearful - I just got out of the way."

One customer, who asked not to be named, said he was at a liquor store recently when four men walked in with backpacks, filled them with bottles of liquor, and walked out.

"They can hire all the security they want, but they don't have the ability to do anything," he said.

"I wouldn't put myself in a situation where I could get hurt. These people are risking their lives for what? Fourteen dollars or $15 an hour?"

Two more customers, Andreas Thompson and Theressa Genaille, said they hope somebody figures out how to stop the robberies before someone gets hurt.

"I have kids and I wouldn't want to get myself in harm's way," Thompson said.

"You never know if they are armed."

A Winnipeg police spokeswoman confirmed officers had been notified about the liquor store robbery and were investigating.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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