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'If it ain't broke, don't fix it': Proposed liquor in grocery stores pilot brings mixed reactions

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There are mixed feelings in Manitoba about a proposed plan to expand liquor sales and put beer, wine and hard alcohol on the shelves of retailers like grocery stores.

Barry Krueger picks up milk and other staples at the store, but he says something is missing.

“In the summertime, beer," he told CTV News. "When I cut the grass and I have a steak, an ice-cold beer is great."

He’d like to be able to buy that beer with his steak, and feels Manitoba is behind the times.

"I lived in Alberta for about 30 years, there you can buy anything at any public place," he said.

Earlier this month, the Stefanson government introduced legislation that would allow retailers including grocery stores to sell beer, wine and hard liquor on a trial basis.

Pat Schmitke, the owner of Morris Bigway Foods, would like to offer all three in his store and he’d be willing to expand the building to get into the booze business.

“Grab your alcohol while you’re here, I think it would just be beneficial for us," Schmitke said.

He believes liquor sales would not only increase traffic, it would also add convenience – something he says his customers have been asking for.

“They say all the time, it would be so nice if you could get the liquor store in here so we could make it a one-stop shop," he said.

Not everyone likes the idea.

Thompson’s Mayor Colleen Smook wants municipalities to be able to opt out of the pilot project. Smook said her community is dealing with addictions and crime issues related to alcohol, and expanding sales won’t help

"It causes more work for our RCMP basically, between the fights, and the crime rate goes up again," she said.

Other independent grocery store owners CTV News spoke with say they aren’t interested because of the potential for theft and violence. That is something Liquor Mart employees had to endure before the expensive security measures were put in place in those government outlets.

“The way I see it, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," said Rick Green, manager of The Beer Market Charleswood.

Green said his bottom line would take a beating if he has to compete with Costco, Superstore and Sobeys.

“I believe that it would make a huge difference that would affect us immensely," he said.

Back in Morris, Schmitke said competition is a good thing and he is not deterred by the theft issue.

“It would be a risk worth taking,” he said.

When the legislation was introduced, the province said it would be doing consultations to determine the rules and regulations around the pilot project.

The legislation has not yet been passed. 

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