Authorities in Prince Albert, Sask., are concerned about the sale of alcohol to drunks and minors who get cab drivers to roll up to a drive-thru service to purchase liquor.
The city is considering adding a clause to its taxi bylaw to prohibit that activity. According to a report prepared for Prince Albert city council, some cab drivers felt their safety was threatened by intoxicated or underage passengers who insisted the driver get them some alcohol.
"Cab drivers came and met with me and told me how they were physically accosted by customers," Mayor Greg Dionne told CBC News. "[The customers] were underage and the cab driver would not put them through."
City officials noted that provincial legislation already bans the sale of alcohol to minors or people who are intoxicated, but using a cab driver — under the threat of violence — at a drive-thru outlet was a way to skirt the law.
Even though there is an expectation that the liquor vendor will assess the age and sobriety of a customer, that can be a tricky proposition at a drive-thru, especially if the driver is a cabbie who is acting out of fear.
"I want them to be safe," Dionne added. "[Cab drivers] have enough challenges in our community as it is. If we can help them be a little safer, we're going to make that move."
Taxi Bylaw change proposed
Prince Albert is considering making it illegal for a cab to take customers to the pick-up window of a drive-thru liquor outlet.
A taxi could travel to the location, but the passenger would have to get out of the vehicle and enter the premises to make a liquor purchase. That would ensure the vendor is following their obligation to sell to appropriate buyers.
Dionne said he has heard cab companies may post notices in taxis to inform customers of the new rule. He added he is prepared to take the heat from any unhappy fares.
Wording of Taxicab Bylaw amendment (adding new rule in section 17):
"17. A taxicab driver shall not:
(d) transport passengers through an off-sale drive-thru liquor outlet."
"The stickers ... are going to say, 'Under city law we are not allowed to go through licenced drive-thrus'," Dionne said. "Then they're not the ones getting attacked. It'll be me."
The proposed bylaw change has been working its way through the approval process at city hall in Prince Albert.
If council agrees, it could be added to the books by the end of April.
According to research provided to CBC News, there are no drive-thru liquor outlets in Saskatoon and one in Regina.