Putting a freeze on watering holes
Council resolves to lobby against additional bars in Iqaluit

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Aug 23/99) - As the capital of Nunavut continues to grow and build up its infrastructure, one sector of the towns industry may just remain frozen in time.

At least it may if town councillor Doug Lem gets his way and he just might, depending on the amount of sway town council has with the soon-to-be-formed Nunavut Liquor Board.

During the municipality's last council meeting, after having his original idea of a five-year ban on the creation of all new bars struck down by municipal lawyers, Lem introduced a motion that would see the town lobby against the issuing of any new liquor licences to bars until 2004.

Lem cited the town's alcohol-related social problems as the reason behind the resolution that passed on a 3-to-2 vote. Two councillors were absent from the meeting when the resolution was passed.

"Increasing the number of bars will not help the situation here in town. There are a lot of social issues to deal with and there is no control over them," explained Lem. He added that the motion gives the various social agencies the boost they need to begin to catch up and address the various problems.

"Once you get a hold of it, then you can go forward, but its going to take a few years to get everything in place," said Lem.

He also introduced and passed two additional resolutions at council, one of which called for a pause on the issuing of further liquor licences until the Nunavut Liquor Board was formed and another that called for a review of the Liquor Act once such a board was struck.

While the final decision on the opening of new bars lies with the board, which Finance Minister Kelvin Ng is currently in the process of assembling, Lems actions have left one group of hopeful bar owners mystified.

Elisapee Sheutiapik and Ross Bennett, two of the partners behind the proposed Uvagut bar, said that Lems motion to lobby against liquor licences was inappropriate and that council members, by passing his resolution, were not accurately representing their constituents.

"They're there to represent the people. The town council cannot act from one individual. It's got to be a consensus from the community. How could they jump and do that," said Sheutiapik, who has managed to garner almost 900 signatures from drinking-age townsfolk who support her entrepreneurial efforts and want a new bar.

She said that giving residents another option in their choice of available watering holes would not entice more people to drink and would, in fact, improve the way alcohol is handled in Iqaluit by reducing the crowds at establishments around town.

"We would have more control, zero tolerance (for alcohol abuse) would be better enforced and we would be more than happy to fund for a full-time liquor inspector," said Sheutiapik.

Bennett took it one step further and said they would actually use their profits to help fund alcohol treatment programs in the capital and that as well as providing space for meetings in off-hours, portions of their profits would be contributed to community events.

Delilah St. Arneault, the manager of licensing and enforcement for the Northwest Territories Liquor Licensing Board, confirmed that she had received Uvaguts application for a liquor licence, but said that all matters were on hold until the Nunavut Liquor Board was formed this fall.