Modernizing bylaws good for what ‘ales’ us

Something is brewing in Edmonton.

At least, we hope it is.

There’s a move afoot to change — perhaps “modernize” is a better term — the city’s zoning bylaws to allow brew pubs and microbreweries to open in shopping and commercial districts such as Old Strathcona.

Currently, the city restricts breweries to industrial zones, a throwback to when Canada only allowed large-scale beer makers.

The province has been updating its laws faster than the city. In 2013, the Canada Gaming and Liquor Commission scrapped the requirement that all brewers had to produce at least 500,000 litres of beer a year.

In 2015, the AGLC took another step by allowing breweries to open up restaurants.

Calgary embraced  modernization and created a new class of development zone tailored to breweries. The resulting growth of that city’s microbrewery industry has been effervescent, so to speak.

In Edmonton, it has remained flat due to our Social Credit-era bylaws.

On the bright side, we have seen one new brew pub — Situation Brewing — open a microbrewery and 90-seat restaurant on 103 Street just off Whyte Avenue. But the owner spent more than three months navigating a labyrinth of red tape. And that was with city officials doing their best to help.

Coun. Scott McKeen wants to streamline the process by having city council debate a change to our zoning laws to allow for the kind of trendy and upscale watering holes so popular in other cities.

“It’s more of an esthetic experience and it fits really well with our culinary scene that has grown in a big way,” says McKeen. “It’s a sign we’re growing up as an urban centre.”

Canada’s mouldy liquor laws have long had a prohibition whiff to them, even after the province closed government-run liquor stores and allowed private liquor outlets to open in 1993.

More recently, the AGLC eliminated restrictions on happy hours and the commission is looking at modifying restrictions on licences at Canada’s numerous summer festivals.

Edmonton’s Folk Fest, for one, is thirsting for change. The festival is as well known for its two-hour lineup at the beer tent as it is for world-class musical performances.

The Folk Fest could obtain an “all-site” liquor licence to open another beer tent but under current rules mandating one security guard for every 50 patrons, the festival would have to ensure there are upwards of 500 security guards on-site.

Canada’s most popular folk-music celebration would start to resemble a Donald Trump rally.

Canada’s liquor laws are slowly emerging into the 21st century; Edmonton’s zoning bylaws for brew pubs and microbreweries should be, too.

Modernizing them will be good for business, for tourism and for a simple night out with friends.


Editorial: Modernizing bylaws good for what 'ales' us


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