At least three Brandon watering holes are willing to open early — very early — on Sunday to allow hockey-mad Brandonites to watch the Canadian men's hockey team play in the gold-medal hockey match versus Sweden.
The province said Friday that bars and lounges in Manitoba would be able to open at 5 a.m. on Sunday for the game, but they would have to apply by Friday afternoon.
Due to difference in time-zones, that gold-medal game will be broadcast in Manitoba starting at 6 a.m. on Sunday.
"The Olympic games have, once again, captured Canadians’ imaginations," said Dave Chomiak, minister responsible for regulating liquor and gaming. "If Canada is in the gold medal game, it will be an exciting event for hockey fans and we want to give them an opportunity to gather to watch it and cheer on the nation’s team."
This is the first time service hours will have been changed to allow early morning opening. Should Canada play Sunday and hospitality outlets open to serve liquor, the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission says they will see how it goes with an eye on possible future changes.
"It’s not a blanket approval," said Elizabeth Stephenson, chief administrative officer for the Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba. "We’ve never done this before. This is the first time they’ve been permitted to open this early, so we want to assess how well it goes."
Places that would like to be open for the game have to be first approved by the MLCC, which isn't guaranteed. The MLCC says it will consider the bar's nearness to residential areas as well as their history of compliance and social responsibility.
Interested lounge, dining room, cabaret, private club and beverage room licensees are asked to contact their licensing officer at the MLCC to request authorization for early opening.
"We realize that timelines are very tight, so interested businesses must get in touch today for pre-approval," Chomiak said.
According to the MLCC, at least eight Manitoban bars or lounges had expressed an interest in opening early on Sunday. Three in Brandon were planning to open their doors for the game: Houston's, Montana's and Boston Pizza.