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Range 'losing' sales to crack

Stephan Burnett
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 16/04) - Apart from the smoking ban hurting bars sales, Richard Yurkiw, owner of the Gold Range Hotel and The Gallery, says the rampant spread of crack use in Yellowknife is cutting into booze sales.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Gold Range manager Nadine McMenemy says the hotel is losing ground to crack dealers. Crack cocaine costs $60 a hit, said McMenemy, "so when they're spending that on drugs, you know they're not drinking here." - Stephan Burnett/NNSL photo

"Crack is hurting us. We have kids from 19-25 on crack. We're letting a generation destroy themselves," said Yurkiw.

According to Yurkiw, crack use is increasing because the law has forced tobacco smokers from the bars and onto the sidewalks.

Yellowknife RCMP Sgt. Steve McVarnock said he finds it hard to believe that crack use could be tied specifically to the imposition of the smoking ban, but agreed that crack use is out of control in the city.

McVarnock also said even if alcohol sales have plummeted there is no corresponding decrease in alcohol-related crime.

"I'd also like to see the scenario played out a little further. The smoking bylaw was obviously not inviting for smokers to go outside at 40 below," said McVarnock.

At the same time, the RCMP sergeant said with warmer weather, he expects alcohol consumption will increase, along with sidewalk smoking.

"There could be an increase in crack usage as a result of that," said McVarnock.

Major Alan Hoeft, executive director with the Salvation Army, agrees with the RCMP.

"To be honest it seems a bit of a stretch. In reality we haven't seen a significant increase in crack since the imposition of the smoking ban," said Hoeft.

"There might be some logic in that type of proposal but it's too short a period to be making those kinds of links."