The Saskatchewan Party recently announced significant changes to the province’s liquor laws.
Among the changes put forward by Crown Investments Corp. Minister Donna Harpauer, who is also responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority are changes which will enable all spas and salons to offer champagne to those attending bridal showers, movie theatres will be able to have adult-only areas serving drinks and restaurants will be able to offer ‘bring your own wine’ service.
The province will also allow striptease performances and wet clothing contests in adult-only liquor-permitted premises; full frontal nudity will continue to be prohibited.’
The new rules mean performers can’t strip down past pasties and G-strings.
Yorkton MLA Greg Ottenbreit said the changes haven’t generated a lot of local feedback, but some have expressed concerns about the changes to adult entertainment rules.
“We have had only a few calls to the office on the changes,” he said. “Some of the callers have expressed concerns with a couple of the changes, mainly around adult entertainment. These changes will be less prohibitive than what is currently in place, however, Saskatchewan will still be the most restrictive province.
“Most have communicated that they are “happy the province is moving into the 21th century and modernizing the legislation.”
Ottenbreit said he sees the changes as necessary to create some fairness for business.
“Admittedly, our liquor laws were quite a bit more prohibitive to business than anywhere else in Canada,” he said. “With these changes, we are at least in line with some other provinces in the country, making our businesses more competitive.”
Ray Sharp, owner of the Yorkton Hotel doesn’t see local establishments rushing to hire striptease dancers.
“For me it’s not going to change anything,” he said, adding in his case “I’ve spent six years getting rid of that reputation.”
Sharp said he would likely lose 75 per cent of his existing bar clientele if he were to hire dancers.
Sharp said while “certain establishments might be looking for this stripper thing to go on,” he added “I haven’t heard any talk about it here.”
The idea of strippers in bars might be attractive to some places in the largest cities, or in small towns on an occasional weekend to spur some different business, said Sharp, but he said he is not expecting it to have much impact in Yorkton.
Ron Irvine, president of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce, said the changes are “interesting,” but added they are not something which local members were clamouring for.
“Locally we haven’t hear a lot one way, or the other.”
Since members have not been actively talking about the need for changes, Irvine said the Chamber is waiting to see what members think now that changes have been announced.
“We’re interested and curious to see how membership reacts to it,” he said.
Graeme Mitchell, manager of the Tower Theatre in Yorkton said having the ability to sell liquor to adult movie patrons will not be unique to Saskatchewan, with other provinces already having those regulations in place. He said there are several ways theatres have adopted selling liquor that he has seen, including having off-theatre lounges, designated areas within the theatre with those wishing to take alcohol to their seats, and even adult-only theatres.
Mitchell said locally it is unlikely the Tower Theatre will opt to serve alcohol, citing that parent company Landmark does not go that route in other jurisdictions.
And, there is the cost of making changes to facilitate liquor sales, and the issue of needing someone 19-plus on staff at all times to serve, said Mitchell, adding most of his staff would not be old enough.
“It doesn’t help us,” he said, but quickly added “It’s a great idea though.”
Unaffected by Tuesday’s announcement is the legal drinking age of 19. Controversy erupted after Premier Brad Wall wondered aloud last month if there was a case for again lowering it to 18 - where it was in the early 1970s until a free vote of MLAs, worried about heavy teen drinking, pushed it up to 19.