Fredericton bar owners call for later closing times

Several Fredericton bars are calling on the New Brunswick government to give them more leeway in when they close their establishments.

Department of Public Safety is updating the Liquor Control Act

The New Brunswick government is reviewing its Liquor Control Act for the first time since 1961 1:51

Some Fredericton bar owners say the New Brunswick government needs to extend last call as a way to ease the crowd control problems experienced in the city’s downtown.

The Department of Public Safety is updating the Liquor Control Act, which was put in place in 1961, and is seeking ideas from businesses and citizens.

The act is responsible for all aspects of liquor control, such as who can sell liquor and what establishments can have a liquor licence.

Several bar owners in Fredericton told a public meeting on Tuesday the provincial government needs to consider easing the rules on when bars can close.

Doug Williams, the co-owner of the Garrison District Ale House, said the provincial government should allow bars to extend their closing times. (CBC)

Doug Williams, the co-owner of the Garrison District Ale House in Fredericton, said the 2 a.m. closing time creates chaos in the city.

"If there wasn't a hard closing time, like there is now, there wouldn't be the issue of trying to get 1,500 people out of one small little area all at the same time," he said.

"If they could stagger closing times or change the hard cut-off, then it would actually be quite good."

In 2010, the Fredericton Police reported more than 100 assaults outside of the Tannery district, where many bars and restaurants are located. That represented a 71 per cent increase over 2008.

Kris McNeil, manager of Nicky Zees, which is another nightclub in the Tannery area, said extended closing times have been a proven success during special events in the city.

"Actually, people left, which surprised us. To be perfectly honest, we thought, 'Hey, if we're allowed to be open until 4 a.m., great. People are going to stay and drink until 4 a.m.' But that really wasn't the case," he said.

Some bar owners argue they would be best served if the provincial government simply allowed them to decide when they closed.

"An open closing time … let that be the decision of the business owner. I think that would work the best. Barring that, in my mind, a 4 a.m. closing time would be my preference," said Patrick Hanson, of the Capital Complex.

‘Time for a full review’

Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors said in a statement when he announced the consultation tour that he wanted to remove barriers for the industry.

The public safety minister said he wanted better rules regarding enforcement and to promote responsible alcohol consumption.

"It is time for a full review," Trevors said in a June 4 statement.

"I know our stakeholders will have excellent ideas on how to make the Liquor Control Act meet modern needs."

There are three other meetings planned across the province regarding updating the Liquor Control Act:

  • June 7: Edmundston
  • June 12: Saint John
  • June 14: Moncton