Social club defiant
Police try to put lid on 'Booze Can'

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (May 01/00) - As a member and general manager of the private club commonly known as the Booze Can, Joseph Morneau says the constant raids on the establishment are nothing more than harassment.

Two police raids in three days have failed to stop an unlicensed social club that serves alcohol from continuing to welcome its membership, says general manager and member Joseph Morneau.

Having operated as the Booze Can and the Explorer's Club, the establishment has been registered as the Friends of Arctica Social Club since February and is located in Iqaluit's West 40 district.

"I don't have a problem with liquor laws, or any kind of laws, as long as they are democratic," said Morneau, who is also a teacher at Inuksuk high school.

"But this Liquor Act is designed to maintain prohibition and I want to have the same rights as any other Canadian in any part of this country."

More than 200 members frequent the club which features an extensive collection of original art, round tables for two, couches and a games room.

A full-service bar lines the back wall, staffed with a bartender who is also a member, and Morneau says they aren't breaking any laws because it is the private membership that owns everything.

"This (the club) has nothing to do with the public or the government because it isn't a business.

"Whether it's an individual or a collective ... what they do privately is their business," he said.

"Nobody is profiting here, but the members pay rent, they have expenses, salaries, even the staff are members.

"We are tax-paying citizens choosing to spend our money collectively for mutual benefit and enjoyment."

The police, however, say they will continue to act on tips given to them from the public about the club's operation.

"If they insist on illegally selling alcohol and we receive a tip, we'll be there," said Sgt. Mike O'Malley, who wouldn't reveal how much alcohol was seized, but said it was substantial on both nights.

Eight police officers were sent to the premises last April 22, after the RCMP received an anonymous tip. They detained the members while they executed their search warrant, seized bottles of alcohol and left.

Another six officers were sent to the club in the early morning hours of April 24, acting on a second tip. Again alcohol was seized and the police left.

O'Malley said there were only a handful of members in the establishment both times and that they were free to stay or go after the search.

"We haven't laid any charges in these incidents, but members could be charged with unlawful possession," he said.

"(Morneau) has already been charged twice for the same incidents as this weekend and they are before the courts."

The club has been operating since 1995 and had more than 500 members at one time. The first police raid was in April 1999.