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Brandon Sun - ONLINE EDITION

Why aren't bars open for breakfast every morning?

I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout Sunday morning for the men's Olympic hockey finals.

As I don't need to tell you, Canada defeated Sweden to take the gold, and despite the early-morning hour (the game started at 6 a.m.) area bars and lounges were packed with fans who were hungry for the win (and thirsty for a beer).

Astonishingly, the legal serving of booze, starting as early as 5 a.m., was legitimized by the province in lighting-fast time. They announced Friday (as the Canadians were playing in the semi-finals), that should the local boys make it to the finals, they'd allow bars to open up early.

It was deemed an event of "international significance," which the MLCC deemed worthy of special extended opening hours under Section 100 of the Liquor Control Act.

(Aside: Oddly, that section only allows extended opening hours for "an event of community, municipal, provincial or national significance" — it says nothing about international significance.)

Apparently, some 76 places in the province managed to apply befor the 4 p.m. Friday deadline (several places that the Sun talked to said that they had trouble lining up staff on such short notice) and the province turned none of them down.

Elsewhere in Canada, provincial liquor authorities in Saskatchewan and Alberta issued blanket OKs for licensed venues to open their doors, but the wording of the regulations here apparently forbade that.

In a press release, the MLCC said it would be keeping an eye on how well the 5 a.m. expansion went.

I have heard of zero issues — well, the Confusion Corner Bar and Grill in Winnipeg apparently ran out of Keith's by 7:20 a.m. — and I think that bodes well for future morning openings.

Except, I can't think of any upcoming reasons for them. Other big Europeans sporting events? Like what, if a Canadian makes it to the Wimbleton final? What it it's a Manitoban?

But I think this piecemeal approach is going about it the wrong way.

Why can't bars and restaurants serve beer and liquor whenever they like?

Why can't I get a mimosa with breakfast? Or an Irish coffee? Or a chelada or a Caesar if I so desire?

What if I'm a shift worker? I can't get a beer after work just because my shift isn't deemed "normal" enough?

I understand that the government has a role to play in ensuring that society functions smoothly. And alcohol, although a social lubricant in many situations, can also be absued.

But I think the current approach of treating alcohol with absolute prohibition until a magic hour (whether noon or 5 p.m.) and a magic age (18 or 19 or 21) and then allowing a free-for-all just encourages, well, a free-for-all.

Much better would be an approach that begins to treat Manitobans as if they can be trusted to make decisions on their own.

The coming adjustments to the Liquor Control Act (apparently Winnipeg will get a preview of them for the Junos, but I'm not sure how much they will apply in Brandon) are a step in the right direction.

The quick-off-the-draw willingness to embrace experiments like early-morning drinking for the gold-medal hockey game also signal a willingness to try things out that would have been verboten just a few years ago.

On Twitter, the Liquor Mart has proven extremely responsive to customer concerns — not just with information, but with action.

It all adds up to small, slow steps in what I think are the right direction.

Next up: breakfast beers. It worked on the weekend, I think it would work all the time.

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