Edmonton liquor store bylaw review goes ahead despite public backlash

The City of Edmonton will review the relevance of current liquor store rules despite accusations from the public that council is pandering to the Katz Group.

'I got slapped upside the head by people on social media,' Coun. Scott McKeen says

The city will review the rule that currently requires 500 metres between liquor stores. ((CBC))

The city will review the relevance of current liquor store rules, despite criticisms from the public that council is pandering to the Katz Group.

"This has been particularly frustrating," Coun. Scott McKeen told other members of council during Tuesday's meeting. 

"I got slapped upside the head by people on social media."

The complaints started after a city committee on Jan. 16 considered a request by the Oilers Entertainment Group, which was asking for an exemption to the current bylaw that requires downtown liquor stores to be 500 metres apart.

Councillors believe they're making the right decision to revamp the bylaw, the original intent of which was to protect communities and deal with social disorder, McKeen pointed out.

"I'm not convinced the geographic limits have accomplished that," he said.

Mayor Don Iveson described the bylaw as a "blunt instrument that continues to vex this council."

City council discusses the merits of revamping the current liquor store separation bylaw. From left are councillors Michael Walters, Scott McKeen, Sarah Hamilton, Tony Caterina. (CBC)

On Tuesday, Iveson said he believes the city got it "wrong" to begin with, in part because it doesn't take problem businesses to task through the business licensing.

The Katz Group's bid to open a liquor store in the arena and entertainment district would put it within 500 metres of seven other liquor stores in an area bounded by 103rd and 105th avenues and 101st and 104th streets.

Last week, local entrepreneurs and the Alberta Liquor Store Association showed up at a committee meeting to urge councillors to keep the current bylaw without changes.

But McKeen believes more competition may bode well for the responsible operators of liquor stores.

Coun. Aaron Paquette suggested that, before reporting back to council, city administration look at bylaws in other municipalities as well as studies looking at  the impact of alcohol sales.  

The administration has been asked to consult the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and liquor store owners before drafting a revamped bylaw by June.