‘It was a scramble’: Winnipeg hotels happy after province flips on beverage room closures

By | October 20, 2020

WINNIPEG — Winnipeg hotel owners are rejoicing after the province gave them the green light to reopen beverage rooms.

The move, however, has some questioning why the closure of beverage rooms, a type of liquor licence given to establishment attached to hotels, happened in the first place.

The province scrapped the restriction just hours after it took effect on Monday morning.

It made for a busy Tuesday morning at the Norwood Hotel, whose two beverage rooms had to be shut down.

“We were really excited to be back open after all of the things this spring and then having to close again was certainly a bitter pill to swallow,” said Jane Snow, the general manager at the Norwood Hotel

The quick reversal left employees little time to set everything up for Tuesday service.

“It was a scramble and again, having to go back and get everything ready up and running again,” said Snow, “It was the best type of scramble,”

While happy the restriction was lifted, the hotel industry is left wondering why it was ever put there in the first place.

“I feel like we’ve worked really hard to keep our safety standards there and put our guest’s safety at top priority and I thought it was sort of a strange decision when cases weren’t arising out of hotels,” Snow said.

The province said the reversal is due to liquor licenses being made to help with liquor enforcement and not a public health response.

“As noted by Dr. Roussin yesterday, the gray areas created by these licensing distinctions pose a challenge when public health orders are written since the orders are black and white. Given that many beverage rooms are operating more like restaurants, it was determined that a closure of beverage rooms is not required at this time,” a provincial spokesperson told CTV News in a written statement.

The Manitoba Hotel Association is hoping the reversal opens the door to discuss how the government can further help hotels.

“I think that it’s important that we get an acknowledgment from the government that our sector is different and that we are going to need some sector-specific assistance,” said Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association.

The association said it would like to see some form of government subsidies like those done in other provinces including Saskatchewan and Quebec.

It is also calling on the city for some sort of property tax adjustment since they are calculated based on revenue two years prior.

The assistance would help places like the Norwood Hotel, who are seeing substantially less business amid the pandemic.

“Even though we are up and running, we are still not bringing in the type of revenue that we would if COVID-19 was never in existence,” said Snow.

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