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Online survey overwhelmingly in favour of keeping Iqaluit beer and wine store

An online survey by the Nunavut government shows many residents are in favour of keeping the piloted Iqaluit beer and wine store open indefinitely.

Social distancing still necessary for lineups outside, director says

A file photo of long lines at the Iqaluit beer and wine store. The liquor commission's director says if customers want the store to stay open, 'they've got to do their part and distance from each other outside.' (Travis Burke/CBC)

An online survey by the Nunavut government shows many residents are in favour of keeping the Iqaluit beer and wine store open indefinitely. 

September marks three years for the store that opened on a trial-basis. 

As part of a final report it's preparing for the Nunavut Department of Finance, the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission ran an anonymous survey asking residents if and how their alcohol-related habits have changed since the store opened in 2017.  

"The respondents of the survey overwhelmingly support keeping the store open," said Dan Young, director of the liquor commission.

Of residents who completed the survey, around 75 per cent wanted to keep the store open. Over half of them called the stores impact on the community either neutral or positive.   

"The number of people who say they bought from a bootlegger after the store opened has significantly dropped compared to before the store was open." Young said. 

"The consumption habits of our respondents have gone from hard liquor to predominantly beer and wine, which was one of the aims." 

The beer and wine store opened as part of a harm reduction campaign so people could access drinks that are lower in alcohol content. 

About 200 people who took the survey said they drank more hard alcohol before the store opened. After, only 47 said their drink of choice was hard liquor or spirits. 

The beer and wine store has taken actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 like spacing customers out while waiting in line inside the building. (Nick Murray/CBC )

Iqaluit residents made up 88 per cent of responders to the survey. More than 800 people took the survey, but only 760 people wanted their anonymous responses used for public reporting by the government. 

Less than half of survey takers identified as Nunavut's Inuit, at 36 per cent, while 59 per cent of people identified as non-Inuit and others chose not to say. 

For people who don't have computers, the survey could be filled out on paper at the beer and wine store, the City of Iqaluit's office, or through government liaison offices in all communities. 

The Department of Finance says it will present the report to Minister George Hickes this summer. He will have final say on whether the store will stay open, or not. 

The report was expected to come in time for the spring sitting of the Nunavut Legislature.

More alcohol sold since COVID-19 closures

Since closures related to COVID-19, sales are up at the Iqaluit beer and wine store by about 10 per cent on average. Young said this is likely because more people are staying home and have more leisure time. 

Young said there was a larger spike in sales, of around 20 per cent, when people thought the store might close. Those sales slowed down when that didn't happen. 

At the store, people are standing two metres apart and have to pay with debit or credit. 

Young called it challenging to get customers to stand two metres apart while lining up outside, despite putting up markers and signs. 

"If our customers want the store to stay open, they've got to do their part and distance from each other outside," he said.

Varieties are starting to sell out this time of year right before sealift, he said. The store just got two plane loads of more than 45,000 kg of beer each.

Current prices at the store reflect both the lower cost of sealift and higher cost airlift, averaged to make a standard price for the products throughout the year.  

With files from Salome Avva

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