Partner pulls out of Uvagut bar project

Explorers Club manager Joseph Morneau, who is facing a charge under the Nunavut Liquor Act, is pulling out of a project aimed at starting a new bar in Iqaluit.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — To help his would-be partners succeed in their plan to open a new bar in Iqaluit, Joseph Morneau has pulled his name from the project.

“I’ve removed myself as one of the owners,” Morneau said, when contacted by Nunatsiaq News.

“I didn’t want to be a lightning rod for all the do-gooders out there. I thought it would be in the rest of the owner’s best interest and improve their chances,” he said.

Morneau, along with partners, Ross Bennett, Grind and Brew owner Elisapee Sheutiapik, Bennett’s daughter Carmen Kootoo and Eva Adams began circulating a petition in favour of a new bar several weeks ago.

The petition is said to contain about 700 names. But news of the proposed bar drew mixed and sometimes fierce reactions from local residents.

The group want to open the Uvagut Bar at the West 40 site occupied formerly occupied by Morneau’s Explorers Club booze can.

Because of his recent decision to pull out of the partnership, Morneau would be the bar’s landlord instead of one of its owner.

Morneau gained notoriety when the Explorer’s Club booze can, which he operated, was raided by RCMP earlier this year. Police said the club was selling liquor without a licence. He has since been charged with violating the Liquor Act, and has yet to be dealt with in court.

The first step for the Uvagut bar to open its doors is a liquor licence. At press-time, the group still hadn’t filed an application. Once an application is filed, the owners will undergo criminal background checks.

But Morneau said only previous convictions should be considered.

Five-year moratorium considered

Now some Iqaluit town councillors want to keep the Uvagut Bar — or any bar — from opening in Iqaluit for the next five years.

On August 10, a recommendation to impose a five-year moratorium on new bars will go to town council for debate.

“I think if we deal with our own social issues now, maybe in five year’s time we’ll be set for a new bar,” said Coun. Doug Lem, who proposed the motion. “I think the Town has to be responsible and make sure our social problems are resolved first.”

But one of the partners says if the town wants to kill all new bar development, it should shut down the current ones too.

“I think it’s wrong — to be polite,” Bennett said. “Be fair and close every drinking establishment.”

Bennett is also disappointed by the news that Morneau will no longer be a partner in the bar.

“I’m sorry he’s not, because I used to work with Joe a long time ago. He was an honest, dependable person,” Bennett said. But Morneau’s departure won’t hamper the group’s financial position, he said.

Once council votes on Lem’s motion, the municipal administration must find out what the legal ramifications of a moratorium are, said Paul Fraser, Iqaluit’s acting senior administrative officer.

Fraser could not say whether a moratorium on bars is legal and declined to comment until after council votes. Whether council could vote down a business licence application or use zoning regulations to keep the bar out is also unclear.

Iqaluit band wants name changed

Another hurdle may also stand in the way of the Uvagut Bar. The Iqaluit-based band Uvagut wants the bar to change its proposed name, said band member Jose Arreak.

The band has drafted a letter asking the bar to reconsider its name. The will send the letter after it examines its copyright files.

“We believe we do have copyright, we just want to make sure,” Arreak said. Uvagut filed for copyright over its logo when it released a recording in 1990.

“People were actually asking ‘why in the world would the band Uvagut want to pursue a liquor licence?’ So we’ve already been tarnished,” Arreak said.

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