Yesterday, True North Sports & Entertainment had to send representatives before Manitoba’s Liquor Control Commission. The meeting was the result of an incident where the MLCC caught a minor being served alcohol at the Winnipeg Jets home opener.
The MLCC has the authority to impose a suspension of liquor sales at MTS Center. Is that a likely outcome?
A casual glance through the MLCC website shows that underage drinking is a clear priority for the agency. On January 1, they implemented new photo ID requirements for young adults attempting to either purchase alcohol or enter an age-restricted establishment. That implementation was but one part of a broader plan released in May 2011 that featured key initiatives to combat underage drinking. Even that broader plan was a follow-up to a decision made the previous year to make fines in Manitoba for underage alcohol purchases the highest in Canada.
The plan approved in May is the reason TNSE had to attend a disciplinary hearing. From the MLCC release:
All Act Breaches Involving Minors to Require a Board Hearing: This initiative is intended to demonstrate to licensees the serious nature of offences involving minors and alcohol. This change would send a strong message to licensed premises that sale and service of alcohol to minors and minors in possession and/or consuming alcohol in an age-restricted premise, will not be tolerated.
But while underage drinking is an MLCC priority, it seems improbable that there will be anything more to come out of this particular incident than a fine. Global News reports that the MLCC is recommending a fine in this instance, as well as the fact that this is the first time that the owners of the MTS Centre have been charged with serving a minor.
Further, according to True North spokesman Kevin Donnelly, this was a difficult to prevent incident because the minor showed ID and his father supported his attempt to purchase alcohol.
Given the clean track record of the MTS Centre and the comments being made publicly, it’s difficult to characterize True North as behaving irresponsibly in this case, and the likely outcome – a fine from the MLCC – seems far more appropriate than suspending the arena’s liquor license.
(As Last Minute of Play reminds me on Twitter, the Air Canada Center was slapped with a one-week suspension back in 2003, so this sort of thing has happened before.)