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In 1st year, Iqaluit store sells 1.9 million beers, 190,000 bottles of wine

The store was opened as part of a strategy to reduce the harm of alcohol consumption, especially of spirits, by making lower-alcohol beer and wine more accessible.

Store has done 'good job' of reducing the harm of alcohol consumption, gov't spokesperson says

Long lines were a constant feature of Iqaluit's beer and wine store one year ago. (Travis Burke/CBC)

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Iqaluit's beer and wine store, and the Government of Nunavut is considering the venture a success.

The store was opened Sept. 6, 2017 as part of a strategy to reduce the harm of alcohol consumption, especially of spirits, by making lower-alcohol beverages more accessible. 

"The stats show that we've done a good job with that," said Daniel Young, director of Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis. "We're selling a lot of product and at the same time we're seeing a lot less spirits sold and imported into the community."

The store opened in September 2017. People waited in line for over an hour before reaching the counter of the store. (Travis Burke/CBC)

The government tracks import permit sales, which are the necessary documents to purchase alcohol from outside of the territory. For Iqaluit, those sales are down 50 per cent for hard alcohol and coolers, and about 75 per cent for beer and wine, in the months since the store opened.

The concerns about opening the beer and wine store leading to chaos have been unfounded, fortunately.- Daniel Young, Director of Nunavut  Liquor and Cannabis

The government also tracks sales from the beer and wine store, and up until Aug. 24 the store sold about 1.9 million bottles or cans of beer and 190,000 bottles of wine. At the store red wine is more popular than white, and Bud is the biggest selling beer, said Young.

The store brought in about $9.1 million from its opening day until late August. Once costs of the product and running the store are factored in, the Nunavut government will receive the 10 per cent profit, which is just shy of $1 million.

Concerns of chaos 'unfounded'

As this is part of a pilot project, Young said the territory's Department of Finance worked with community partners including the RCMP, the Department of Family Services, and the Department of Health to gather baseline data. They have continued to collect statistics since the store opened, he said.

Young said all three partner organizations say they haven't seen any significant change in alcohol-related incidents.

"The concerns about opening the beer and wine store leading to chaos have been unfounded, fortunately."

There are no significant changes on the horizon, but Young said they are continuing to make small adjustments behind the scenes, to speed up the process and try and cut down on the lineup.

The Government of Nunavut is looking for feedback on the store — service, design, and products — in a survey it is releasing this week. It will be available online and in hard copy until the end of the month.

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