While churchgoers seek spiritual fulfilment at Good Friday services tomorrow, sipping spirits at the local watering hole is now an option, thanks to the relaxation of Manitoba’s liquor laws.
The updated Liquor Act, which took effect April 1, expands consumer choice by eliminating sale and service restrictions on religious holidays, giving restaurants and bars the option to open on Christmas, Good Friday and Easter.
The only exception remains Remembrance Day, where opening hour restrictions continue to be noon for legions and 1 p.m. for other establishments.
"This will be the first holiday where we test and see what the reaction is to the new legislation," said Kristianne Dechant, communications manager for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp.
"We still don’t know yet what the reaction will be and how many will choose to open up on Friday."
Businesses themselves will determine whether they want to open their doors on those religious holidays, while keeping their customer base in mind, Dechant said.
Allowing bars and restaurants to decide if they’re open is also more inclusive of "different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions in Manitoba," she added.
Prior to the recent liquor law changes, The Dock on Princess general manager Jamie Munro said Good Friday was a day they "dreaded" being open.
"With the previous liquor laws, the food-to-alcohol ratio was always a burden," Munro said. "It was frustrating for our customers who wanted to come out and treat it like a regular Friday night but couldn’t."
The local bar and eatery plans to keep their regular hours this Friday, and those scheduled to work that day will be paid time and a half. Despite the added expense involved, being open on the establishment’s busiest day of the week should help offset the costs, Munro said.
"Anything that the government does to move us into a more progressive direction is good for business."
Another local establishment opening its doors on Good Friday is The Great Western Roadhouse, which plans to mark the occasion with what it’s calling "Brandon’s biggest UV paint party" with "over 100 gallons of UV reactive paint." Revellers planning to attend are encouraged to dress in white.
However, not every restaurant that serves liquor will be taking advantage of the relaxed booze laws this Friday.
Lady of the Lake will be closed, giving its staff the day off.
"We’re closed every Sunday as well and that’s just how we roll, we’re closed on holidays," said cafe supervisor Cindy Evernden.
"The main reason is just to take time with our own families."
While these recent changes allow restaurants and bars to be open, grocery stores, most businesses and government services will be closed on Good Friday.
Munro said he has received several phone calls this week already inquiring about the new liquor laws and whether they’ll be open on Friday.
"I’m excited about the response from the customer base ... so we’re hoping we’re going to be busy for sure."
Also under the new legislation, the City of Brandon has the authority to place restrictions on hours and days of booze sales within city limits, but it has no plans to impose any of its own rules.
Council would have to pass a bylaw to limit any opening hours outside what is in the provincial legislation in order to make changes, according to a city spokesperson.