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Bars, lounges rush to open early for gold-medal game

Staff at Montana's Bar and Grill (from left) Sarah McNutt, Aaron Check and B.J. Morrow are preparing for an influx of hockey fans early Sunday morning for the gold medal Olympic match.

COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Staff at Montana's Bar and Grill (from left) Sarah McNutt, Aaron Check and B.J. Morrow are preparing for an influx of hockey fans early Sunday morning for the gold medal Olympic match.

As Team Canada goes for the gold on Sunday, hockey fans will be able to get some gold of their own — in the form of golden beer at city bars.

Manitoba bars and lounges are allowed to open as early as 5 a.m as Canada takes on Sweden for an early-morning matchup for the Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The province made the announcement Friday and gave drinking establishments until 4 p.m. yesterday to apply for authorization with the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission.

That led to some quick decisions and planning for local businesses, but a number of city bars are among those that will be open for the big game.

"You betcha we’ll be open. We’ve got our liquor permit so we’re good to go," Montana’s manager Jon Moore said, adding all-you-can-eat ribs will be on the menu.

"Nothing like ribs and beer at 5 a.m."

Houstons and the Boston Pizza lounge also confirmed they’ll be open early.

Houstons manager Darcy Paton said his doors will open at 5 a.m., too, and the game will be featured on its four 12-foot TV screens.

Paton said opening up for the game was a no-brainer.

The atmosphere has been "electric" for other hockey events like the World Junior Hockey Championship, and he expects the same for the gold medal matchup.

"When there’s a full crowd, it’s kind of like being at the game … Just wear your red and white," Paton said.

The Boston Pizza lounge will open just in time for the faceoff at 6 a.m. Via Twitter, Tavern United invited Brandonites to watch the game at Playmaker’s Gaming Lounge at the Canad Inns hotel.

Normally, dining rooms and cocktail lounges can open at 11 a.m on Sunday, while cabarets and beverage rooms can open at noon.

But on Friday, the province announced that lounges, dining rooms, cabarets, private clubs and beverage rooms could open and serve liquor on Sunday at 5 a.m. so citizens could gather to cheer on their team.

As of the end of the second period of Friday’s semifinal, with Canada leading the U.S. 1-0, eight to 10 Manitoba businesses had already applied for early opening. By yesterday’s 4 p.m. deadline, 76 applications had been approved.

The early opening was granted under Section 100 of the Liquor Control Act.

It allows open hours and service of liquor to vary for events of provincial, national and international importance.

In the past, bars have been allowed to stay open for major Manitoba events.

For example, the Junos Awards will be hosted in Winnipeg this year so bars will be allowed to stay open until 3 a.m.

But this marks the first time such an early opening has been permitted.

Liquor and Gaming Authority spokesperson Liz Stephenson said the gold medal game was a good chance to take a stride toward modernization.

Plus, hotels and drinking establishments had already made several requests to be open for the game.

"We sort of quickly put this together because we know that people want to get together and cheer on their Canadians," Stephenson said.

Stephenson said the authority will see how this early opening goes before deciding whether it will be done for future international events.

A number of city bars and lounges contacted by the Brandon Sun on Friday afternoon said they weren’t going to be open, or it looked doubtful.

Some cited difficulty calling in staff for an early shift on short notice.

» ihitchen@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 22, 2014

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