Christmas kettles no longer allowed in Manitoba liquor stores following customer complaints

One familiar sound of the holiday season will be absent from Manitoba liquor stores this year.

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries says policy isn't aimed specifically at Salvation Army, but no exceptions for now

A Salvation Army kettle is seen in a Winnipeg mall in this 2015 file photo. Volunteers will no longer be allowed to solicit donations in Manitoba liquor stores. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

One familiar sound of the holiday season will be strikingly absent from Manitoba Liquor Marts this year.

The Salvation Army has been told it is no longer allowed to solicit donations through its kettle campaign in any of the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries stores in the province, after the Crown agency said it received complaints from shoppers about charities soliciting in the stores.

"We were notified that this is their policy and we accept that they made this policy," said Maj. Rob Kerr, a spokesperson for the Salvation Army. "We understand where they are coming from."

Kerr said the policy affects the charity's physical presence in Manitoba liquor stores in Winnipeg, Brandon, Neepawa and Thompson, as well as any other communities where the kettle campaign operated.

He said the Liquor Mart locations were key to the charity's overall kettle campaign. 

"Across Manitoba last year, we raised about $60,000 through the kettles that were in the [Liquor Mart] locations," said Kerr.

"That's significant for us. Almost 10 per cent of what we collected through Christmas kettles came through the [Liquor Mart] locations." 

Maj. Rob Kerr says the Salvation Army raised about $60,000 from kettles in Manitoba Liquor Mart locations last year, but it's too early to say how it will affect the charity's bottom line this year. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Susan Harrison, a spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, told CBC News in a statement that complaints from customers about being solicited in stores were not directed at just one charitable organization, but said the Crown corporation aimed to create a policy that would include all charitable groups.

"Currently, there is no program that allows other groups the same access the Salvation Army has had to our customers for fundraising purposes," Harrison said.

"We are currently working on corporate guidelines to govern the solicitation of customers and employees by charitable groups to ensure consistency for all," she said.

"At this time, and in the interest of fairness, the decision has been made to not allow any exceptions." 

Kerr said the Salvation Army can still place tabletop donation boxes at cashiers, but it remains to be seen how the change will affect this year's campaign. 

"We don't know what the bottom-line impact will be," he said. "We're hoping it won't be a negative impact, but we don't know for sure." 

Kerr said the Salvation Army raised about $530,000 though the kettle campaign last year alone. 

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