"Dry" towns that do not serve liquor could be a thing of the past in Manitoba, depending on the outcomes of referendums in two southern communities in the so-called Bible Belt.
The referendums will be held in the rural municipalities of Hanover and Stanley on Oct. 25 during provincewide municipal elections. If those municipalities follow the lead of recent ones in the nearby cities of Steinbach and Winkler, there will be no more dry communities in the province.
In Hanover, the question will read, "For the electorate to say yes or no to the making liquor available."
Hanover Reeve John Driedger said the question came up when a local restaurant asked to be allowed to serve liquor so it can compete with businesses in Steinbach.
Steinbach, whose population is largely Mennonite, voted in 2003 to lift its 30-year liquor ban in a hotly contested referendum. In that vote, 50.9 per cent voted in favour of serving alcohol in restaurants, while 49.1 per cent voted against.
At the same time as Steinbach's vote, residents in Winkler voted in favour of cocktail lounges and licensing private clubs, but also voted to keep alcohol out of spectator events.
But Driedger said news of the upcoming liquor vote in Hanover has not generated the kind of reaction seen in Steinbach's vote.
"You're not looking at a closed community anymore," he said. "The school registers indicate that we have virtually all ethnic groups represented in our communities these days, you know.
"There are some churches that I think feel fairly strongly about it, but they haven't made any presentations," he added. They haven't contacted any of us."
R.M. of Stanley didn't know they had ban
Meanwhile, in the Rural Municipality of Stanley, outside Winkler and Morden, Reeve Ted Dyck said his council did not know they had a liquor ban until a local developer pointed to an old municipal law stating liquor could not be sold.
"Up until this past year approximately, we were not even aware that we were in that jurisdiction," Dyck said.
Dyck said he doesn't expect the issue will be contested in Stanley, given the fact that liquor is already available in nearby Winkler and Morden.
"With all the jurisdictions around us having that possibility, we thought it was a natural that we should look at it here as well," Dyck said.