Groups across the city cannot fundraise with beer nights anymore, thanks to a crackdown on the practice by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.
For example, the Saskatoon Anarchist Bookfair had planned to host a beer night at Winston’s English Pub and Grill on Oct. 23 as a fundraiser for their upcoming bookfair.
“A lot of people are going to feel the effects of that in the way of fundraising,” said Jude Ashburn, one of the organizers of the event and a student at the University of Saskatchewan. While she says the beer night won’t put them behind much, it is “kind of a pain.”
Winston’s hosts about eight beer nights per month over the summer and fall seasons. Chris Beavis, who owns Winston’s, defends the practice.
“I don’t think we have broken any rules,” he said. “[The SLGA] have a certain viewpoint on things, we have a certain viewpoint on things, and I don’t think we’re doing anything illegal.”
According to David Morris with communications at the SLGA, their rules regarding beer nights have not changed, only the enforcement.
“The overserving of beverage alcohol at ”˜all you can drink’ events has always been prohibited by SLGA,” said Morris. “SLGA’s legislation has also always prohibited the resale of beverage alcohol in permitted establishments. Permitted establishments cannot allow customers to purchase and resell beverage alcohol within the establishment.
“SLGA has become aware of a number of permitted establishments in Saskatoon that were hosting ”˜all you can drink’ events. SLGA has reminded these establishments about the rules pertaining to their permit.”
So far, only bars in Saskatoon have been contacted, but Morris insists that if they heard of other all you can drink events in the province, those establishments would be contacted as well.
Beavis disagrees with SLGA’s suggestion that beer night patrons are overserved, since beer nights at Winston’s are held in the basement and carefully controlled.
“From my perspective, it doesn’t matter where someone is on the premise; we try to watch what they’re serving,” said Beavis.
Beavis also disagrees with labelling beer nights as “all you can drink” events.
“On a beer night you pay $10 and it’s not all you can drink, that’s not an accurate statement. Often by the time you get down here you can’t really drink all you want for $10 because the [keg] runs out.”
Even though Winston’s doesn’t make a lot of money from beer nights, Beavis says they’re still important to the bar.
“We break even on beer nights but it gets people down to Winston’s,” he said. “I think it’s an indirect benefit in the long run. The groups appreciate what we do and they remember that.”
Morris was unable to comment on the suggestion that policies may be reviewed to allow for beer nights, but he did suggest other means by which groups can fundraise, like cabarets, dances and other social events.
“There are other avenues available,” he said. “The SLGA does issue special occasion permits for groups to have fundraisers.”
Unfortunately, the need to buy a special occasion permit is what upsets the Anarchist Bookfair organizers. Ashburn calls the move by SLGA a “cash grab” and the organization plans on printing information pamphlets and stickers saying so.
Winston’s doesn’t plan to give up on beer nights entirely. Beavis has instituted a new kind of beer night where Winston’s charges $10 per pitcher, then donates $3 from each pitcher sold back to the group at the end of the night.
“I think everybody really enjoys [beer nights],” Beavis said. “They’re good legitimate fundraisers if they’re run properly.”