[CHARLOTTETOWN, PE] – Last week, cabinet approved changes to the provincial regulations pushing back the time when booze can be served at bars and restaurants.
Currently, licensed establishments cannot begin serving alcohol before 11 a.m. But starting this weekend, they can begin serving beer, wine and spirits as early as 9 a.m.
Jamie MacLeod, director of corporate services for the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, says these changes bring P.E.I. in line with other provinces.
"Our opening time, along with Ontario, has been the most restrictive in Canada," MacLeod says. "We looked at what the other jurisdictions were doing across the country and made a recommendation to government, which government has approved."
These changes apply to restaurants, lounges, clubs, military canteens and caterers.
MacLeod says numerous licensed establishments, as well as tourism groups, including the Tourism Advisory Council and the Tourism Association of P.E.I., have been requesting this change for quite some time.
"Particularly in the summertime to capture the tourism market and in particular in the Charlottetown area where we have the cruise ships coming in, license holders have been indicating to us that a number of the visitors are wanting to have early morning champagne breakfasts, if you will," he says. "So when we looked at the landscape of the country we felt a recommendation to government of moving to nine o'clock certainly was in line."
Another change to liquor regulations is one that will allow these same establishments to serve alcohol on Christmas Eve and Good Friday. Before now, these days were off limits to bars, lounges and restaurants.
Again, these changes bring P.E.I. to the same standard as the rest of the country, with the exception of Nunavut.
Provincial liquor stores will not be affected by these changes and will remain closed on Good Friday and will close at 5 p.m. as always on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day will remain off limits for anyone to sell booze in the province.
When asked if these changes were being made to meet Tourism Minister Robert Henderson's recent call for the commission to look for ways to improve revenues, MacLeod says no.
"That was not our motive," he says. "This item is something that we have been working on, getting research on it, for some time."
He says data they've collected from other jurisdictions show increased liquor serving hours don't create substantial improvement in liquor revenues, but rather merely provide patrons and visitors with enhanced services at licensed establishments.
"In the big scheme of things we don't see that as a huge revenue addition to our coffers... it's more a customer service thing, if anything."
The changes come into effect June 23.