Carmacks schoolchildren may soon see beer and wine flowing freely.
Central Hub Café owners Gail Tulk and Ryan Billy have applied for a liquor licence to serve alcohol at the establishment, which abuts Tantalus School.
“It will bring drinking culture right up to the boundaries of the campus,” said principal Cully Robinson on Tuesday.
Located across a lane from the school, the café’s deck overlooks the school grounds, he said.
The students frequent the café for snacks or lunch and this will “expose many vulnerable children to drinking culture and activity,” wrote Robinson in a June 6th letter of objection to the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
“At a time when the school has received allegations that minors are using threats and money to gain access to alcohol and there has been riotous activity in the community fueled by alcohol, this is not the time to expand service,” he wrote.
On June 5th, there was an attempted murder at the Gold Dust Lounge in Carmacks.
Five men were involved in the knife fight, including two Gold Dust Lounge cooks and its bartender.
“That happened in the bar and involved three to four employees of the bar — so I think that if there’s a problem with alcohol in the community, it’s not the time to expand service, it’s time to review the way service is being delivered,” said Robinson.
It’s amazing the Gold Dust is still in operation after an attempted murder, he added.
“I mean, what does it take to get the Liquor Corporation to do its job?”
The Yukon liquor board is responsible for all liquor licences in the territory, said Yukon Liquor Corp. vice-president Virginia Labelle.
“And we don’t take any action until we have some facts relayed to us by the RCMP,” she said.
“Then we follow up, determine the facts of the matter and what, if any, disciplinary action might be appropriate — anything from a discussion, a warning letter, a suspension or we can recommend the board cancel the licence and it makes that decision.”
Though the bars’ employees were involved in an attempted murder, the Liquor Corp cannot investigate a stabbing, added Labelle.
“Information on the incident at the bar has been provided to the liquor inspector and it’s ultimately up to the Liquor Corporation to make a decision,” said RCMP Sgt. John Sutherland on Wednesday.
“I spoke to a (liquor) inspector and he said they wait for the police to look into those things. And I spoke to the RCMP and they said that’s a matter for the liquor control board,” said Robinson.
“It’s a merry-go-round — it should stop and due process should be followed. I’m not asking for a witch hunt.”
There was another alcohol-related injury in Carmacks on Tuesday.
After falling asleep in front of a car, Gail Tulk’s son was run over and is in serious condition at Whitehorse hospital.
People in the community suggested Tulk had been drinking.
“There’s nothing to indicate any involvement of alcohol on the part of the driver of the vehicle,” said Sutherland.
“I have lived in (Carmacks) for 30-something years and have seen the grief and death that drinking and drugs have caused,” wrote resident Dawn Charlie in a separate letter of objection to the Liquor Corp. about the café’s licence.
“I am very much in opposition to anyone else receiving a liquor licence here in Carmacks,” she wrote.
“The café applying for the licence is also right beside the school … What kind of message does this give the children?”
Central Hub needs the licence to compete with the town’s other restaurant, said its cook, Joe Gimigliano.
“We’re not trying to open a bar; we’d just like someone to have a steak and a beer or glass of wine with their meal.”
Being next to the school is not an issue, he said.
“It’s not really a big deal, as long as you’re IDing and it’s a controlled environment.
“If you go to several other communities you got liquor stores attached to the school, like Faro,” he added.
“It’s a small community and Gail and Ryan have been here all their lives, so they know all the kids here.
“It won’t influence the kids here in a negative way.
“And it’s not too close because the bar used to sit right next to the school.”
The Sunset Lounge used to operate beside Carmacks’s former school.
“There were many complaints by the community that students were seeing people coming in and out of this lounge during the day, because it opened at noon and they walked by it all the time,” said Carmacks MLA Eric Fairclough.
The community wanted the lounge shut down. There were also discussions about a new school. And because the old one would still be in use while the new school was being built, the community needed more land.
Fairclough brought the issue before cabinet and was instrumental in purchasing the property.
“It gave room to the school for expansion and got rid of a drinking establishment right beside the school, so it was all positive,” he said.
“Now this new application for a licence is close to the school again, and it would be the same thing. Although it’s a restaurant, not a bar, so it’s a bit different.”
The problem isn’t that a restaurant has applied for a liquor licence, it’s that the establishment is right beside the school, said Fairclough.
“I am concerned. I don’t really want to see it granted there.
“The position we took before was to get rid of (the Sunset Lounge), and I think it would be foolish on our part to accept one that is basically almost in the same spot.
“Some are concerned enough to write (to the Liquor Corp.) — I think chief and council may be doing the same thing.”
But Chief Eddie Skookum has his hands full.
“When it comes to a business, especially not in and around our settlement land, we have more pressing issues,” said Skookum on Tuesday, citing the accident involving Tulk’s son.
“I know these business proprietors (Tulk and Billy). They’ve got a pretty good head on their shoulders and I’m pretty sure they won’t be serving young kids who are coming over to skip a drink off them.
“And school’s just about out,” he added.
Drinking is already a problem in the community, and one more restaurant liquor licence isn’t going to make a difference, said Skookum.
“Tourists like the occasional drink on their table, and that’s who they’re catering to.
“Most Yukoners wouldn’t just go to have a beer with the meal, they would just go get their own stuff.”
As required by the Yukon Liquor Act, the Liquor Corp. has been running a public notice about the application since May 30th, for three successive weeks.
If there are any objections, the act requires a board hearing no sooner than 10 days after the last publication date.
Before receiving a licence, the applicants must also undergo a personal history report and a criminal record check.
“That’s underway right now,” said Labelle.
Trouble is, record checks can take up to six months.
Rather than making the applicants wait that long, the Liquor Corp. usually takes their word for it.
“Assuming that the corporation feels what the applicant is telling us about their record is correct — for example, it is an old offence, or is not one that would cause concern about their fitness to operate a licensed premise — we normally recommend to the board that the licence be approved conditionally,” said Labelle.
“Otherwise, it’s basically, holding someone up when everything else is in order and it may be a teenage break-and-enter offence.”
This concerns Robinson.
“I would be worried about this licence being granted before the results of a criminal records check and all due diligence to make sure they were fit applicants was performed,” he said.
“It is a very serious thing to have alcohol served in the community, so let’s make sure every T is crossed and every i is dotted.”
In a small community, people are reluctant to stir the pot, said Robinson.
They don’t want to complain about neighbours, employers or relatives.
“But someone in my position has an obligation to raise these kinds of concerns,” he said.
“We don’t want to demonize the bar and the restaurant, but we have to ask, ‘Is due diligence being performed by the regulatory agency, the Liquor Corporation — are they doing their job?’”