PEI’s Newly Progressive Liquor Regulations

For someone like me, who’s as close to being a non-drinker as one can be (to the point where, when I answer the “lifestyle” questions from pollsters, they don’t believe my answers: “what do you mean you’ve had one drink in the last 6 months?!”), I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time railing against Prince Edward Island’s regressive liquor regulations over the years. Witness:

The Rural Levee Loop Awards 2018

The levee at the Miscouche Legion looked like a rollicking good time, with a live band and teaming revelers in attendance; alas we were turned away at the door, as it was a “19+” event, due to liquor regulations.

Xenocracies Everywhere Really Soon

Because of Prince Edward Island’s antediluvian liquor laws, Oliver was only allowed to be present until 9:00 p.m., and so there was some last minute stress surrounding whether he’d be able to go on stage before turning into a Prohibition pumpkin, but, again the Fringe team rose to the challenge and made sure he was on in the first hour.

What If Stores Charged Admission?”

I’ve never been to Small Print because the conditions of its liquor license don’t allow Oliver, being under 19, to be there after 8:00 p.m., and if I was going to go somewhere and play board games with someone, it would be with Oliver, after 8:00 p.m.

Wherein my child’s morals are not corrupted…

Alas the visions of butter chicken and chips dancing in our heads were dashed when we were told that Churchill Arms’ liquor license wouldn’t allow minors on the premises after 8:00 p.m. They were very nice and apologetic about it, and of course it’s a matter outside of their control so we bid them no ill will.

Rebuffed by Backwards Laws

When we showed up at the Silver Fox last night at quarter to eight, however, the man at the door took one look at Oliver and shook his head: the concert, it seems, was a “licensed event.” Meaning no kids. We could go in without Oliver, or, maybe, get our tickets refunded and all go home empty-Gallanted.

In the last 17 years that we’ve been parents, we’ve experienced all manner of heartbreak and rejection over not being able to attend events, or go to restaurants, because Oliver, who’s almost always with us, is a minor.

When Oliver was forced to leave the launch party for Island Fringe last week before 9:00 p.m., because, organizers were told, “after 9pm, Studio 1 becomes a 19+ venue,” I decided to try to get to the bottom of this: how could it be, in 2018, that we continue to have restrictions based on temperance notions that were set aside generations ago.

It turns out that we don’t have such restrictions, at least not as of this spring, when government introduced changes to liquor regulations under the Liquor Control Act that greatly liberalized age restrictions, and take the province from being sadly regressive to being uncommonly progressive in one fell swoop.

What this means, in practice, is that the days of “sorry, we don’t allow minors after 8:00 p.m.” are gone.

As I understand it, there are limited exceptions but, compared to the old regime, they are rare and apply only in special circumstances: as such, if you are told by a restaurant, venue, event or other licensee that your under 19 children cannot be admitted, they are more than likely relying on old information.

In my experience the word has been slow to get out to some licensees and event organizers on the ramifications of these changes for their particular business; it’s also possible that some businesses are using their liquor license as a conceit for age discrimination that has nothing to do with their liquor license.

In both regards its up to we in the consuming public to spread the word.

Minister of Finance Hon. Heath MacDonald and his officials at the PEI Liquor Control Commission deserve credit for taking on the challenge of thoroughly modernizing our liquor legislation for the first time since Prohibition


Oliver Rukavina's picture
Oliver Rukavina on August 10, 2018 - 18:55 Permalink

from that blog post: "

The presence of the young–Oliver, unusually, was not the youngest present–was enabled by New Brunswick’s liberal liquor regulations that allow minors in a pub (and, indeed, pubs at all) as long as they have an adult present. Such tomfoolery would not be allowed in PEI."

Sandy's picture
Sandy on August 11, 2018 - 06:06 Permalink

I looked into the liquor regulations last summer when at 5:30 pm one evening I tried to go to Hopyard with Alex, Bailey another mom and her 2 teens. We were turned away by the owner who said they were unable to have minors after 5 because of their liquor license. At the time, a PEILCC employee explained that the establishment could chose the time that they wanted to restrict minors up until 10pm ( all establishments had to restrict by 10 pm). So in fact, Hopyard had chosen that time themselves, but we're trying to put the blame on the PEILCC. I was not impressed.

Andrea's picture
Andrea on August 11, 2018 - 11:41 Permalink

With a steady increase in the amount of products, both locally and imported, available on PEI, I’ve been curious why the PEILCC hasn't made any effort to work on slicker design than the utilitarian serif wordmark used on signs and packaging, a made-by-committee non-logo that reads to me as an overt attempt to not promote themselves. I’ve wondered, is this a nod to our temperance past, we should still feel shame when we purchase alcohol?

This licensing issue suggests that since successful in modernizing legislation, now might be the perfect time for the PEILCC to update the way they communicate their policies and products to both retailers and consumers, and it could also be an opportunity to launch a campaign to promote the brand and to educate retailers and consumers on interesting, responsible and best uses of their products.

Krista-Lee Christensen's picture
Krista-Lee Chri... on August 31, 2018 - 11:14 Permalink

We took the kids to Baba's last night for an Island Jazz show that started at 8pm. It's not often that we get to experience these things with the kids because of the usual very late start times. We were excited! We arrived and the door person was unsure if we were permitted to bring in the kids. We were told that we had to be sitting at a table and we had to order a meal (we'd already had supper and weren't hungry but ordered one token meal). When I went with my boy to stand closer to the music and get a view, I was told to "keep a hold of him". It all left me wondering, what is the spirit of the law? I'm glad we were allowed in, but were we all supposed to order a meal? Did the kids have to stay at the table the whole time? Does accompanied actually mean staying in physical contact with my child? We wanted to enjoy the show, and follow the law, but it felt like there were a lot of grey areas that made us wonder if we were being an inconvenience.