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NS Prepares to Change Liquor Laws

Is it time for Nova Scotia to get rid of prohibition-era laws, once and for all? The Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco Division (AGFTD) of Service Nova Scotia thinks so. 

Currently, Nova Scotia has 105 "dry" areas, where it will require a costly, and unnecessary plebiscite vote to become "wet." Within these "dry" areas, it is illegal to operate a drinking establishment unless you have express community support in the form of a plebiscite or a direct electoral vote.  These are long-standing restrictions that remained from a 1929 law - one that has left Nova Scotia behind the times. 

While they have lifted the provincial prohibition laws, Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada to still adhere to a plebiscite-style system regarding the sale and serving of alcohol as part of their Liquor Control Act. Most other provinces allow the municipality to determine alcoholic jurisdictions. Changes to the Liquor Control Act would make the entire province "wet" and remove the need for the plebiscite vote. Often, there is little or no opposition to the plebiscites and,

"the trend is they all eventually do go wet, so our plan is to propose turning the entire province wet and then if municipalities want to keep an area, or a portion of an area dry, then they can do that through municipal zoning." 

- John MacDonald, executive director of Alcohol, Gaming, Fuel and Tobacco.

Plebiscite votes often prove to be costly, and usually with very low voter turn out. A recommendation has been put forth to eliminate this law, and another one, which prohibits the serving of alcohol to anyone who doesn't order food. Instead, the government has put forth a suggestion that patrons are permitted two drinks without buying a meal. Currently restaurants with an Eating Establishment Licence (versus a Lounge License) can only sell alcohol to patrons who also order food. As our Vice President of Eastern Canada, Luc Erjavec states,

"in some instances, the customer does not want to do this [order food with their drink] resulting in a loss of business for the operator."

In many cases, Nova Scotian restaurant operators seek to overcome this law by separating or dividing their establishment and obtaining a Lounge License so they can serve drinks without food - an needlessly arduous and expensive process. It's important to note that both of these licenses can only be obtained through a lengthy public hearing process - one that eats up time and costs for small business owners in the industry. 

These laws are outdated and it's time to finally bring Nova Scotia up to the rest of Canada, and the world. Ultimately, this decision would help eliminate costly red tape and barriers and benefit the entire province through tourism, and aid in increasing business for restaurant owners and help boost up the economic activity of Nova Scotia's small businesses and foodservice industry. 

Read More in CBCNews's article, here.

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