Manitoba’s new booze laws will thin the line between salon and saloon.
The updated Liquor Act takes effect April 1 and will allow licenced salon customers the option of enjoying a glass of bubbly while getting their hair done.
Ontario and Saskatchewan already have similar laws in place.
"This change in the legislation is meant to level the playing field for all personal service providers to be able to offer alcohol to their clients," said Kristianne Dechant, manager of communications and research for the newly created Liquor and Gaming Authority of Manitoba.
It has been common practice for some beauty salons and spas to have wine or beer on site, but any parlour doing so has up until now been breaking the law in Manitoba, according to Dechant.
"It is illegal to consume alcohol in a public place that is not licenced," she said, but added it’s not illegal for spas to serve booze if it’s attached to a hotel.
The major overhaul to the liquor legislation, which hasn’t gone through such a transformation since 1956, has generally been well-received by area bars and restaurants, but many local spas and salons won’t be racing to get the $300 licence come Tuesday.
Tanya Teetaert, owner of Tanya’s Beehive Lounge salon on 13th Street, said she wants to get the licence, but may wait until the summer. Heather Day, owner of Straight Up Salon above Lady of the Lake, is also seriously considering the licence, but wants to take a close look at the details.
She’s not alone.
"I’m not jumping on board with anything yet, but I am very interested in getting into it," said Quentin Derhak, owner of Bladeworx Barber and Salon on Rosser Avenue.
"I think it’s a good thing ... if you want to have a beer while you’re getting your haircut, you should be able to."
Many salons that offer drinks to patrons have been flying under the legal radar, but Derhak said he expects Manitoba’s booze regulators to now have a closer eye on those establishments with the introduction of the new law.
"I’m not planning on breaking the law to offer someone a drink," he said. "It’s not worth the risk to serve liquor. If you come in and get a haircut and I don’t know you, am I going to offer you a beer? Hell no."
According to Dechant, the province’s liquor controller takes a "risk-based" approach to inspections — meaning not all bars and restaurants are inspected as frequently as others and it’s likely salons and barbers aren’t going to draw as much attention from law enforcers.
"Realistically, they’re not in the business of serving alcohol, we won’t be inspecting them as often as we do restaurants and bars, but they will still be subject to inspection."
Licensed salons will have to make food available, Dechant said, but they aren’t expected to have a kitchen on site. They will, however, need to have prepackaged food or an arrangement with a nearby restaurant or caterer wherefrom a client could place a food order.
"We’re not asking spas and salons to suddenly open a kitchen, they’re not in the business of cooking food," Dechant said.
Under the legislation, anyone under the "customer and member service" category — under which salons now fall — is able to sell any type of beer, wine or spirits at a minimum price of $2.25.
Allowing the flow of booze in spas and salons is one of a swath of major changes to the province’s liquor rules — a set of laws which up until now have been widely considered to be woefully out of touch.
The long-awaited and much-discussed document will bring with it fewer consumer restrictions, fewer licence types, more live music and longer hours, according to the Manitoba government.
Driving these changes is the creation of the LGA. It brings regulatory oversight for liquor and gambling under one roof and creates a single inspection process and single application to serve liquor and licence video-lottery terminals.
"The new regulations go a long way to put everyone on an equal footing," Jim Baker, president and chief executive officer of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said recently.
For organizers of socials, there will be a single online application for liquor and raffle permits and outdated bottle limits and quotas will be eliminated.
"You’re not going to have to pretend to raffle off perfume bottles," Dave Chomiak, the minister responsible for the LGA, said recently.
"People were trying to get around obscure rules that were developed in the 1930s and ’40s that we still don’t understand."
Under the new legislation, the City of Brandon will have authority to place restrictions on hours and days of booze sales within city limits, but it said it has no plans to impose any of its own rules.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press
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