Steelers iced by city regarding beer sales at games
Drinking a beer while watching hockey is as Canadian as it gets.
The Selkirk Steelers think so, too.
But the local Junior ‘A’ club has had trouble convincing Selkirk council to allow them to sell beer at select Steeler games.
Steelers’ general manager Chris Poponick said they have been rebuffed on two separate occasions by town council in recent months– and he’s interested to hear their reasoning.
“We originally looked at selling beers at games because there are a number of teams in the league doing that and we felt that that was a good opportunity for us to make some additional revenue to help cover the costs,” said Poponick in a recent interview.
Poponick said the Steelers were informed by the Manitoba Liquor Commission and the City of Selkirk that because the Selkirk Rec Complex was not a licensed establishment for liquor consumption, the Steelers would have to be the owners of the building in order to take out a liquor license permit.
That posed a problem for the Steelers because they do not own the building.
In an attempt to resolve that issue, the club sent a letter to the City of Selkirk this past summer, said Poponick, asking for them to work with the team with its idea of selling beer at games. The City of Selkirk, however, turned down that request.
After discussions with various people, the Steelers then were informed that the City of Selkirk has special permit licenses for the Rec Complex each year.
“One avenue was to ask (the city) if we could use one of those special permit licenses and maybe select a couple of games to see if we can license it and get beer sales and consumption and have it as a trial-type thing,” Poponick said. “That was the second go around and we tried that back in October when I sent that letter off and then in November they sent a letter denying that as well.”
Poponick isn’t ready to ice the idea of beer sales at Steeler games, however.
“I would still like to see it,” he emphasized. “The biggest thing for us is that our fans are asking for it. There are so many people who have grown accustomed to going to a hockey game and sitting down and having a beer. This is something that people are asking for on a regular basis.”
The idea of selling beer at games isan economical one for teams. The cost of running a junior ‘A’ hockey team in Canada is expensive. Poponick was quick to note that the Steelers are a non-profit organization that lost around $50,000 last season.
“Nobody makes money off this team,” he stressed. “It’s a group of individuals who sign the cheques and put their neck on the line to keep junior hockey in Selkirk.”
The ultimate goal, said Poponick, is to simply get more fans in the stands at Steeler home games. He has no problem if the City of Selkirk makes the money off the liquor sales – he just wants more people in the stands to watch hockey and have a good experience in Selkirk.
“We need to create revenue, we need to get more people coming through the door,” Poponick stressed. “The team is not in a healthy financial position – we need to get people coming in. And if beer sales at a hockey game will get another 100 people through the door, then that helps us with our costs throughout the year.”
Selling beer at Manitoba Junior Hockey League games is not uncommon. Portage, Dauphin, Virden, Swan Valley, and Neepawa (select games) each have liquor sales at their facility.
Fans can also have alcohol beverages at the MTS Iceplex while watching the Winnipeg Blues in the Press Box Restaurant and Sports Bar.
“It’s worked quite well for (the other teams),” Poponick noted. “I was at the Virden game back in October and it was very nicely set up. That’s a community that has stepped up and supported their junior program and they really want that program in Virden for the long haul.”
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson was quick to admit that he personally would enjoy a beer at a Steeler game. Still, there are some serious scenarios that worry him with the sale of alcohol at games.
“The biggest thing that worries me, and I’ll use the New Year’s Eve game as an example,” Johannson began. “I was at the New Year’s Eve game. It was a full house, there were tons of people there, lots of families, lots of kids, and the thing that scares me is that we have a responsibility for that arena and we have a responsibility to the people of the City of Selkirk and that includes the kids in minor hockey in Selkirk.”
Johannson is concerned that a liquor inspector could observe a minor in the stands drinking alcohol. He cited an incident at the MTS Centre where a minor was served alcohol at the Winnipeg Jets’ home opener last season.
“The thing that scares me is if we did get caught (serving underage minors) and if they did shut us down, even a day, a week, or whatever, while they did an investigation or slapped our wrists, or whatever, and then we had to go to kids in Selkirk and tell them that their games were cancelled.
“That would break my heart – I wouldn’t want to see that happen. And that scares me,” he stressed.
Johansson did, however, say he would be open to seeing if the Steelers would explore the possibility of serving beer specifically downstairs while providing their own security and bartenders.
“No liquor would leave the basement and (the Steelers) would totally be responsible,” he suggested. “That, I could see maybe, as a way that they could do it. But I’m not speaking for council, I’m just speaking for myself, and they have done that for other events, whether it be curling or the World Juniors.
“That could be an idea, (but) I’m not saying that we’re looking at doing that.”
For more articles by Brian Bowman visit www.selkirkrecord.com/