After 17-year ban, Kuujjuaq co-op restores retail beer sales

Residents of Nunavik community can buy case of 12 for $60


Now with your chips and salsa, you can pick up a 12-pack of beer at the co-op store in Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

Now with your chips and salsa, you can pick up a 12-pack of beer at the co-op store in Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

KUUJJUAQ — People in Kuujjuaq can now enjoy a cold one purchased at their local co-op store.

For $60 — or $55 for co-op members — customers can buy a 12-pack of either Budweiser, Labatt Blue, Molson Dry and Coors Light.

Local retail sales of beer, which started this month, are already turning out to be popular: on May 24, the co-op store sold 267 cases of beer — more than they anticipated.

And because of the run on beer, the store’s supply of Budweiser ran out.

On May 25, beer was not sold at the co-op — due to a death in the community.

The restoration of retail beer sales in Kuujjuaq follows a July 2011 referendum in which eligible voters in the town of 2,200 voted 75 per cent in favour of allowing the Fort Chimo Co-op Association to sell beer from its local store.

The co-op association didn’t need to re-apply for a license to sell beer, since they had never relinquished their previous one.

But, after ending the sale of grocery items a few years ago to concentrate on gifts and closing down entirely for a while, the store was obliged to re-invent itself as a small convenience store to resume beer sales.

Now you can buy things like salsa, chips, canned goods, hygiene products, electronics, toys, gifts and bigger ticket items like canoes or refrigerators.

In 1979, Kuujjuaq’s co-operative association started selling beer two days a week but stopped in 1996. That year, residents voted to stop sales following a series of fatal, alcohol-fueled deaths.

However, alcohol-fueled crime did not vanish when people could only buy beer at the bar and lounge in town: of 640 assaults which took place in Kuujjuaq during 2012, 424 were alcohol-related.

In a July 2011 referendum, three-quarters of Kuujjuaq voters cast a ballot in favour of local beer sales, although only about one quarter of the 1,529 eligible voters in Kuujjuaq actually voted.

Then it took time — nearly two years — to iron out all the details of how and when the beer would be sold.

Now you can buy beer — one 12-pack at a time — at the co-op store Monday to Thursday from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Sign over the counter at the back of the store read: “If you are intoxicated, we will not serve you alcohol” and “Enjoy responsibly.”

Apart from Kuujjuaq’s licensed drinking establishments, it’s the only place in town where you can buy beer.

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