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Restaurant owners in N.S. hope liquor law change will boost business

Deb Sangster, owner of Deb’s Hidden Café in Scotsburn, is now able to serve customers two drinks without them having to purchase food following Tuesday’s change in legislation.
Deb Sangster, owner of Deb’s Hidden Café in Scotsburn, is now able to serve customers two drinks without them having to purchase food following Tuesday’s change in legislation.

SCOTSBURN Deb Sangster says a change in the liquor legislation might encourage more people to find her hidden café.

As the owner of Deb’s Hidden Café in the middle of Scotsburn, she said she has had customers in the past stop in wanting an alcoholic beverage.

As the owner of Deb’s Hidden Café in the middle of Scotsburn, she said she has had customers in the past stop in wanting an alcoholic beverage.

The province announced Tuesday it is changing its liquor laws so eating establishments can serve people two drinks without them having to order food. Until now, customers had to order food to be served an alcoholic drink or move to the restaurant's designated lounge area, if one existed.

“Once in a while you will get someone in who will ask and you have to say no, you have to get something to eat,” she said. “For me where people are biking and hiking, they like to come in and have a beer so it might be good for business for me.”

Roxanne Heighton, owner of Harbour House Ales and Spirits on Pictou’s Waterfront, said she has had many discussions with the liquor inspector over the legislation in hopes that it would change to suit the business owner’s needs.

She said only certain areas of her restaurant are considered dining so staff had to make sure people sat in the right area if they were only having drinks.

Heighton said the restaurant lost business because adults would come in with children and only want a drink, but they would have to order food as well in order to be served.    

“We are hoping to get a few more people through the door,” she said.

The province says the change in legislation is aimed to cut red tape for restaurant owners. The local Municipal Alcohol Project had sent a letter to all six councils last fall asking them to support the status quo that called for restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks only with food.

The MAP is a province-wide initiative that engaged communities to have conversations about alcohol in regard to how and why people drink. In Pictou County, MAP consisted of municipal council members as well as staff of addictions and mental health services. It held public forums and spoke to youth about alcohol use in the county. It recently completed Phase II of its work and continues to meet on a regular basis.

Westville Coun. Lynn MacDonald, a member of the MAP, said the group wanted the status quo to remain because there was a concern the change would encourage people to drink excessively where children and families were present.

“We wrote the province and said we didn't want to do that,” she said. “The concern was you could be in some place with your family and some people could come in and order a few drinks. It is easy for that stuff to get out of hand.”

She said members of the Municipal Alcohol Project also recognized that there are many places in the county where people have the option of just purchasing alcohol without food.

“From a municipal perspective, our aim is to try and lessen the harm from alcohol,” she said. 

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