Get ready to pay more for booze after April 1

Many Nunavut residents will pay more to buy imported liquor after April 1, when the Nunavut Liquor Act comes into effect.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — The cost of buying alcohol in Nunavut could rise by as much as 25 per cent on April 1, when the Nunavut Liquor Act comes into effect.

Iqaluit will have the further distinction of becoming the only capital in Canada where retail liquor sales are forbidden.

Residents in other wet communities can expect higher freight costs and new permit requirements to take a bigger bite out of their monthly booze budget.

“There’ll be some increase in costs, and of course the process is different,” Chris Wilson, manager of the Iqaluit Liquor Warehouse, said.

Currently, the warehouse sells and distributes alcohol to consumers in Baffin region communities where liquor is not prohibited — except Iqaluit, where retail alcohol sales were banned by order of the NWT Commissioner in 1976.

As of April 1, consumers in the capital will have to buy liquor permits in order to import beer, wine or spirits from legal alcohol retailers outside Nunavut, including Yellowknife.

“For an individual used to ordering a 40-ouncer of spirits, this will increase his costs by $10.94 each bottle, approximately,” Wilson said.

For consumers across Nunavut who are used to picking up the telephone and placing an order in Yellowknife, changes to the liquor-control system will be the most noticeable.

“They’ll have to get an import permit prior to placing their liquor order,” Wilson said, “and then they have the option of ordering it from an establishment like Yellowknife Liquor Store or [provincial] retail liquor providers.”

Consumers who have been ordering liquor from Yellowknife can expect to pay, on average, 25 per cent more to legally purchase a bottle of spirits that currently retails for $40.

“If you’re buying it from Montreal or Ottawa and you’re following all the rules and regulations, it’s not going to cost you any more,” Ron Courtoreille, manager of the NWT Liquor Commission in Hay River, said.

“But if you’re buying from Yellowknife now and want to continue buying it from Yellowknife, or want to go to Ottawa or Montreal, yes, it’s going to cost you the [additional] price of the import fees for the permit.”

Alcohol possession limits that apply now to visitors and residents returning from outside the Northwest Territories, will apply to permanent residents of Nunavut who travel to the NWT after April 1, as well.

It will no longer be possible, for instance, for individual residents to stock up on beer, wine or spirits while visiting Yellowknife without first obtaining a permit from liquor control authorities.

“If you’re doing some training, or holidaying or visiting Yellowknife, you can’t bring back a whole bunch of liquor,” Wilson said.

Import fees will be applicable on each bottle wine and spirits exceeding 1.14 litres, and for any amount of beer above twelve 355-ml cans or bottles.

The following import-permit fees currently apply:

* $8.77 per litre, for spirits;
* $7.02 per litre for wine;
* $0.70 per litre for beer;
* $1.75 per litre for wine coolers or ciders.

Consumers in wet communities of the Keewatin and Kitikmeot regions who have been used to ordering their liquor from Yellowknife, will require an import permit after April 1, as well.

“If they skip the permit and they order directly from us, they would save some money, but the freight costs might be higher,” Wilson said. “I mean the reason that a person from Rankin would order from Yellowknife is that freight’s a little bit cheaper.”

By agreement with the Northwest Territories, all administrative functions related to liquor control in Nunavut will continue to be carried out on contract by GNWT staff in Hay River after April 1.

There is still some question as to whether the Office of the Interim Commissioner’s plan to move the liquor warehouse to the dry community of Gjoa Haven will be carried out by the new Nunavut government, though.

In Iqaluit, restaurants, hotels and bars licensed to sell alcohol are currently able to purchase most of their supplies from the local liquor warehouse, and won’t be affected by the new permitting requirements.

“Everything will stay just the same as it is until a new Nunavut Liquor Board is formed, and until you are willing to take over sale of liquor in the Nunavut Territory,” Ann Lobb, manager of licensing and enforcement with the NWT Liquor Licensing Board said.

“Licensed establishments will still buy from the Iqaluit Liquor Warehouse as they always have done.”

The Iqaluit Liquor Warehouse is currently the only establishment in Nunavut from which alcohol for home consumption can be legally purchased.

“Unfortunately for residents of Iqaluit, this is a restricted community, which means you cannot just walk in and make liquor purchases,” Wilson said.

“You have to go outside Nunavut. And you now require an import permit.”

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