Pubs want to serve patrons … and their children

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Fletcher , left, and Miranda Stevens stand in the entrance to The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery with their son Casey on May 26. A liquor licensing board designation prevents the two entrepreneurs from bringing Casey into their restaurant as it is a liquor primary establishment. However, Casey is allowed to be in the brewery surrounded by large steel vats of beer. This is just one example of bureaucratic red tape the couple has faced in opening the territory’s only craft brewery. Emelie Peacock/NNSL Photo (May 26, 2017)

Twist & Shout owner Jason Perrino would really like to stop turning away business.

He says thanks to Twist’s Class A Liquor licence, he regularly turns parents, and their strollers, away from his restaurant.

“It happens a lot,” he said. “We can’t allow minors in here.”

He wants to see changes to how Yellowknife establishments are licensed.

According to the NWT Liquor Act, venues have a choice between a Class A license, where a business generates revenue primarily from the sale and service of liquor and minors are verboten, or a Class B License, where minors are allowed but food must be served alongside drinks.

“The problem is that I’m licensed just like Harley’s (Hard Rock Saloon). Class A, a bar, a drinking place,” he said.

Perrino is proposing Class A establishments like Twist, with a commercial kitchen and a full menu, allow minors to eat with a parent until around 8 or 9 p.m.

He took his proposal to the municipal services committee on Monday but there weren’t enough councillors on hand to make quorum.

But he’s scaling the wrong tree: Ngan Trinh, senior communications officer with the Department of Finance, which is in charge of the NWT Liquor Act, stated to Yellowknifer in an e-mail this change wouldn’t be within the city’s jurisdiction.

The NWT Liquor Act does allow communities to manage some aspects of liquor control. In 2015, Yellowknife city council voted to allow bars to open on Sundays, after Perrino successfully lobbied the idea.

Fletcher Stevens, owner of The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery, started a petition to allow children into his establishment around Christmastime. He estimates it currently has more than 300 signatures.

“It’s like this town isn’t very accommodating to families,” he said. “The main demographic of Yellowknife is between 30 and 40 years of age, and that is the prime age that people are having young families. So why would we segregate the majority of the population in the town?”

It’s an issue that hits close to home for Stevens, whose infant son isn’t allowed in the restaurant portion of the business but can hang out among the beer vats in the brewery side under current legislation.

“It’s quite frustrating,” he said.

Terry Hartwright, general manager of the Black Knight Pub, agrees.

“I’m a perfect example of someone who (arrived in Yellowknife) when they were 22 and is now 38 and I have a small child myself,” he said. “Our chances for going out together aren’t very good because there’s only two maybe three places where we can go to eat as a family.”

The Black Knight has brought the issue up with the NWT Liquor Licensing Board before, but were denied when they tried to get a special license to allow children at Saturday brunch, says Hartwright.

They’re hoping Perrino will have better luck with the city.

City administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett told Yellowknifer she was unable to comment until council heard Perrino’s proposal directly.

“Once we hear about what his proposal is, then absolutely we’d look into the feasibility, what’s entailed, who has the jurisdiction, what would be involved in that, pros and cons,” she said.