Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2011 (3567 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Steinbach residents have voted more than two-to-one to relax its liquor bylaws, a move Mayor Chris Goertzen called a reflection of the city's changing demographic.
"I think this busts a lot of people's myths about Steinbach. We're young and we're growing," said Goertzen, who owns a specialty grocery and café in Steinbach called Main Bread and Butter, along with his brother, Robert.
Steinbach residents voted to allow liquor licences for cocktail lounges and beverage rooms, as well as private clubs, by a 70 per cent majority in Wednesday's referendum. The vote essentially wipes out the last prohibition laws remaining in Steinbach. The vote is binding on the city council.
The vote was prompted by an application from Boston Pizza to open a restaurant in Steinbach -- but only if it could obtain a lounge licence. Boston Pizza announced Thursday it will proceed with the construction of a $1-million restaurant. It should be open within a year and is expected to employ about 60 people.
A strong turnout of 38 per cent of eligible voters took part, even though there was a quiet lead-up to the vote. A bit of controversy was provided voting day by two young women waving placards at the voting station that read: "Let's Get Drunk. Vote Yes." Nearby, a man carried a placard that said: "Save the Family. Vote No."
The size of the majority voting in favour surprised many people, including the mayor. Goertzen said he felt many citizens had simply grown tired of voting in referendums on liquor. This was the third vote in nine years.
The average age in Steinbach is 33, younger than most Manitoba communities, including Winnipeg, said Goertzen. Only a handful of communities, such as the RM of Hanover that surrounds Steinbach and Winkler, have younger populations. All three regions have been beneficiaries of aggressive immigration programs.
As well, Steinbach claims, it is Manitoba's third-largest city, surpassing Thompson. It has grown by nearly 25 per cent since the last census in 2011, and tops 13,500 people.
There were some efforts to get out the youth vote, including a dedicated Facebook page. Four years ago, the referendum to permit lounge licences lost by just nine votes "and a lot of younger people were really demoralized by that and felt if only a few more people had voted, it could have swung the vote the other way," said Lee Fehler, 28, who organized the Facebook page. Almost 750 people signed up in support of the Yes vote on his Facebook page.
"We were often known as a retirement community, but if you look around, we're retaining a lot of your youth," said Keith Unger, the 31-year-old president of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce. "If you look at entry-level and middle-level housing, we're full of homeowners between the ages of 25 to 35," said Unger.
Unger said Steinbach already has a Manitoba Liquor Control Commission store that opened two years ago and the outlet is one of the busiest in Manitoba. As well, Steinbach has hosted a downtown beer garden the past couple of summers called Summer in the City.
Others were disappointed with the vote. Local pastor David Reimer said lifting the ban on beverage room and lounge licences would open a Pandora's box. He and his wife have been foster parents to more than 45 children, many of them damaged by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder because their mothers drank during pregnancy. He has received many emails over the years from people saying they wish their community had a ban on liquor sales such as the one Steinbach had until Wednesday, he said. Reimer said it's a fallacy to equate liberalized liquor laws with progress.