[WOOD ISLANDS, PE] — The closure of the Wood Islands liquor store is a catastrophe for a local community group and a major blow in recognizing the eastern ferry port as a gateway to the province, says the chair of the local development board.
And being a major tenant in the Plow the Waves Centre — the greeting place for tourists arriving from the Northumberland Ferry service compound — operators worry the liquor store closure could lead to shutting down the entire complex.
“This is not the time to be looking at balance sheets,” said John Rousseau, chair of the Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation. “It’s time to see the big picture.”
Tourism Minister Robert Henderson confirmed the government is searching out private agency options in the region and the seasonal liquor store will close in 2013. The government cited low sales of $500,000 a year, compared to $2 plus million in other sites.
Development board members say those numbers are misleading, since the store is only operated on a seasonal basis.
“The math used by the PEILCC to justify the closing compared year-round sales from the other liquor stores to seasonal sales at Wood Islands," said Rousseau. "Statistics can be used to manipulate any point of view.”
The 15-year lease arrangement between the province and the corporation still has five to go and provides the development corporation with about $24,000 in rental fees.
Montague Mayor Richard Collins is dismayed there has never “been enough energy” put into the ferry location as a focal point similar to the makeover at Borden/Carlton.
“Closing the liquor store only increases the concern for the area itself and the ferry future,’’ he said. “Government needs to support the Wood Islands area big time because it’s so important to the entire eastern P.E.I. economy.”
The government is considering moving liquor sales to a private agency store at Cooper’s Store in Eldon or an operation in Murray Harbour.
“Wood Islands is the only store of 19 across the province that consistently losses money,’’ says local MLA Charlie McGeoghegan. “Maybe there is another service that we could provide in that building that both locals and tourists would utilize. I don't see this liquor store as a make or break for the NFL ferry.”
Rousseau said the board members of the Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation have requested a meeting with the premier and government officials at the Plow the Waves Centre.
“We believe the government will realize the strategic importance of Wood Islands — the ferry jobs and the gateway significance — and that closing the liquor store will be sending the wrong message to Ottawa and to rural Islanders," said Rousseau. "We believe that the P.E.I. government will reverse this decision.”