A brief history of booze in Manitoba


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1870: Manitoba is established, ending the Hudson’s Bay Co. regulation of liquor in the Red River Settlement.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/01/2013 (3666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

1870: Manitoba is established, ending the Hudson’s Bay Co. regulation of liquor in the Red River Settlement.

1878: The first provincial liquor commission decides to allow one bar for every 300 people in the province.

1916: Prohibition comes to Manitoba, closing all bars and banning the sale of alcohol. Exemptions are made for scientific, sacramental and medicinal use. Predictably, prescriptions for special tonics skyrocket.


1921: A vote ends Prohibition two years ahead of schedule.

1923: The Liquor Control Commission is created to enforce new rules restricting the sale of alcohol. New government stores sell beer and wine through a permit system that stipulates where the beverages must be consumed. Hard liquor can only be consumed at home — and must be delivered there, as it becomes illegal to transport booze during U.S. Prohibition, which began in 1920. Some Manitobans make a small fortune smuggling booze into the U.S. The province also places limitations on how much alcohol any individual can purchase within a week or month. To that end, permits keeps track of all alcohol sales by recording the name and address of every purchaser, as well as what they bought and in what quantity. The commission freely shares this information with police and social-service agencies.

1928: Beer parlours are allowed to pour suds by the glass, but no dancing, music, gambling or even standing is allowed. Essentially, you’re not allowed to have fun if you drink in public. Men and women are not allowed to drink in the same room. Anyone under 21 and all aboriginals are forbidden from entering licensed premises.

1934: The first hotel beer vendors open.

1942: The Winnipeg police’s morality department — yes, that really existed — takes over the job of enforcing liquor laws within the city.

1955: A commission led by former Manitoba premier John Bracken reviews the 1923 liquor laws. Within two years, the province’s liquor-permit system is abolished, serving hours are increased, beer parlours are allowed to sell food, Sunday drinking is allowed in golf clubs and men and women are permitted to drink in the same place. But aboriginals are still barred from licensed premises — and liquor stores continue to track the names and addresses of all purchasers, as well as what they bought.

1962: Manitobans are allowed to dance and drink in the same place in some establishments.

1965: Bar patrons are allowed to play darts and other games.

1967: Liquor advertising is allowed. So is winemaking at home.

1968: Individual purchase limits for booze are abolished.

1970: Manitoba lowers the drinking age to 18 and allows dancing in all licensed establishments, provided the music is live and not recorded. Self-serve liquor stores begin replacing the old depots, where booze was kept behind a counter.

1971: Women are allowed to work at MLCC stores. Alcohol sales are allowed at theatres and sports venues. Minors are allowed to drink in restaurants and cabarets, when accompanied by their parents.

1972: Liquor sales are allowed on reserves.

1975: Women are allowed to sell and pour beer, ushering in a new era of server harassment.

1979: Patrons are allowed to dance to recorded music in some venues. And for the very first time, Manitobans are allowed to drink standing up.

1980: Manitobans are allowed to bring alcohol into the province. More licensed establishments are allowed to sell booze on Sundays and holidays, but only with meals.

1982: The MLCC stops approving food and liquor menus and allows beer parlours to set their own prices.

1984: Food-vs.-alcohol ratios are set up, demanding food sales comprise no less than 40 per cent of sales in dining rooms, cocktail lounges and restaurants.

1985: Manitoba finally allows First Nations citizens to drink on and off reserve. Gaming is allowed in licensed establishments. Booze can be served on election day.

1987: Manitoba reduces the number of liquor-licence categories from a mind-blowing 24 to 11.

1988: Licensed establishments are allowed to demand photo identification to prove consumers are 18 — and gain the right to punt them to the curb if they’re not.

1993: Penalties for alcohol sales to minors increase.

1994: The first private wine stores appear. Liquor inspectors stop enforcing a range of regulations governing everything from bathroom tiles to menu selections in licensed restaurants.

2000: Club DJs and promoters in Winnipeg complain the MLCC’s cabaret licence is antiquated because it does not consider electronic music to be a form of entertainment.

2001: In the wake of the death of an intoxicated university student, the MLCC sets the minimum price for a drink at $2.25. All servers, managers and owners at licensed premises must undergo responsible- service training. Sunday drinking regulations are relaxed.

2004: All-you-can-drink promotions are banned.

2005: Restaurant-goers who don’t finish bottles of wine are allowed to cork them and take them home.

2007: For the first time, you can carry your drink to the washroom. This simple privilege follows fears about the surreptitious administration of incapacitating drugs into unattended drinks.

2011: Last call is set for 2 a.m., seven days a week. At the same time, fines increase for disorderly conduct outside bars. Restaurant-goers are allowed to bring their own wines to restaurants that charge corkage fees. The addition of a brew-pub licence brings the total number of licence categories up to 12. 2012: The first grocery-store liquor outlet opens. The province announces plans to merge liquor and gaming under one authority — and completely revamp liquor regulations. 2014: The number of licence categories is expected to drop to three or four.


— sources: Manitoba Gaming Control Commission, Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, Free Press files

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