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EDITORIAL: Opening the taps

'Humble Barber' Sean Aylward, left, reacts after getting the news from P.E.I. Finance Minister Heath MacDonald that barbershops will be allowed to sell booze as of Feb. 17.
(Journal-Pioneer)
'Humble Barber' Sean Aylward, left, reacts after getting the news from P.E.I. Finance Minister Heath MacDonald that barbershops will be allowed to sell booze as of Feb. 17. (Journal-Pioneer) - The Guardian

The decision by the provincial government this month to allow barbershops to sell alcohol removes one more impediment and brings this province another step into the 21st century.

The remaining dusty vestiges of prohibition are finally falling on Prince Edward Island. The decision by the provincial government this month to allow barbershops to sell alcohol removes one more impediment and brings this province another step into the 21st century.

The decision was long overdue and illustrates the need for a complete overhaul of the province’s liquor laws. There are simply too many confusing rules, exceptions and loopholes.

Summerside barber Sean Aylward campaigned for four years to obtain a liquor licence for his shops in Summerside and Charlottetown. His barbershops sought to take the trade back to a golden age with a comfortable atmosphere – and sipping on a beer as a part of the experience.

Every time he presented an argument to get a permit, it seemed the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission (PEILCC) changed the rules. He kept running into roadblocks of red tape, outdated regulations and bureaucratic delays. It seemed like the LCC went out of its way to pick a fight with barbershops and then was too stubborn to admit it was wrong.

The barriers soon fell with a change at finance, the department responsible for the LCC.

Former minister Allen Roach was in no rush to change the rules. Last November, he told the legislature that a review aimed at modernizing P.E.I.’s liquor laws would not be complete until sometime in mid-2018 or later. That announcement came months after the province revealed plans to review the act for the first time since the 1970s. Mr. Roach had offered the answer in response to a query from then-Liberal backbencher Chris Palmer, the MLA for Summerside-Wilmot.

The end came quickly when Heath MacDonald was named to replace Mr. Roach and the promotion of Mr. Palmer to the economic development and tourism portfolio. With a progressive finance minister in place, and Aylward-advocate Mr. Palmer elevated to an important portfolio, there was no need to wait months for a review. It was time to act and changes were quickly approved.

The new finance minister went to Summerside to hand-deliver the good news to an elated Mr. Aylward, the least the province could do after the businessman faced unnecessary and discriminatory roadblocks for years.

As of Feb. 17, barbershops on P.E.I. are able to apply for liquor licences. Like Mr. Aylward, many Islanders are wondering why it took so long when spas and hair salons were able to serve booze for years?

Mr. MacDonald also recently stepped forward to defuse the kombucha uproar – over an even sillier LCC regulation. It’s so easy to make relatively small but important changes when government wants to listen to common sense. These two interventions might be considered small steps, they are important to the businesses involved. It also sends a signal that this government is pro-business and will look for more way to reduce red tape.

Meanwhile, the Humble Barber has announced plans to add more staff. And the LCC will have another outlet to sell its products. It’s really a win-win situation.

Let the good times flow.

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