Don’t like the NWT’s liquor laws? They may be set to change

Yellowknife's downtown liquor store in April 2020
Yellowknife's downtown liquor store in April 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

The NWT’s liquor laws are likely to change for the first time in more than a decade, with the territory promising rules that are “more modern, responsive to residents’ needs, and streamlined.”

On Monday, the territorial government said it was asking the public for feedback on the existing liquor laws as it maps out how things should change. NWT liquor laws were last significantly revised in 2008. Past concerns have included the rules’ perceived inflexibility, the level of red tape for businesses, and how those laws combat issues like bootlegging.

“It is time to look at the legislation as a whole to make it more consistent, modern and responsive,” said finance minister Caroline Wawzonek, whose department oversees management of liquor in the NWT, in prepared remarks.

The GNWT now plans a series of public engagement sessions. As of 2:30pm on Monday, a space on the territory’s website designed to communicate the dates and times of those sessions remained blank.



An online survey residents can complete was, however, available.

That survey asks residents to choose from a list of priorities related to liquor.

It also asks whether liquor stores should be run by the private sector or the government, whether beer and wine should be sold in grocery stores, and whether bars and liquor stores should be able to open on Sundays and public holidays.

Residents completing the survey can state whether they think youth should be allowed in bars if under adult supervision, and are given the opportunity to suggest ideas to tackle bootlegging.



Advertising and the prospect of designated public consumption areas are also discussion topics listed in a detailed guide to the areas the GNWT expects to cover.

The territorial government took care to stress that liquor laws focus only on the possession, consumption, manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol. The laws don’t cover addictions, mental health, or associated social issues, which are overseen by other branches of government and are the subject of a separate alcohol strategy promised by the GNWT.

The public engagement is expected to wrap up by the end of June 2021. The review itself began in July 2020. A broader timeline for its completion, and any consequent change to the NWT’s liquor laws, was not given.