It almost seems like a quaint notion now but not that many years ago, people battled against cigarettes having to be concealed in stores.
At the time, there was a loud lobby from store owners predicting doom and gloom if people couldn’t see the product.
Several years later, it’s easy to find stores that still sell cigarettes and you can even find people smoking them.
It was an approach first instituted in Iceland back in 2001 that is now gaining ground in the United States.
People moved on and it’s no longer an issue here.
What brought that to mind was the city’s move to ban taxis from going through drive-thru liquor stores.
Mayor Greg Dionne is a key proponent of this move. He explained the rationale to reporter Tyler Clarke in a recent Daily Herald exclusive.
“This is exactly what happened -- they’re sitting in the back seat, (the cab driver) said he knew they looked young, the guy in the back seat said, ‘Here’s $50, buy us beer,’” Dionne relayed.
Adults who have been prohibited from purchasing alcohol have also been using taxicab drivers as their in-between, since taxicab drivers don’t have the same resources that liquor stores have when it comes to identifying prohibited persons.
“We had another incident where the cab driver knew the person in the back seat was prohibited (from buying alcohol) and wouldn’t take him through.”
The taxicab driver managed to shoo off the underage passengers with minimal incident. He lost out on the fare, but was spared a violent confrontation.
The passenger who was prohibited from purchasing alcohol punched the taxicab driver after the driver refused to use the drive-thru.
Surely the taxi cab companies were outraged by this intrusion into their business.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Checker Taxi owner Russ McCloy said of the proposed bylaw.
“I support it whole-heartedly … I was opposed to the drive-thru (liquor option) when they first put them in.”
It was reasoned that people could get out of the cab and walk into the liquor stores themselves to get their booze.
In that way, the onus falls back onto the vendors to decide who is old enough to buy liquor and who is isn’t.
It’s not the job of taxi drivers sitting in a small vehicle getting pressured by the fares in the backseat.
On Monday evening, council heard from the other side of the equation.
Hotel owners obviously fear a loss of revenue from this bylaw change. In particular, they mention special needs clients and people unwilling to come in when it’s bitterly cold outside.
They say they do ID young taxi passengers and have worked extensively to make their premises safer.
They are unhappy that they were never consulted in the process and didn’t have any opportunity to work on a potential solution to the problem. In addition, they believe that if there is a problem, police should deal with it.
We sympathize with the potential loss of money but public safety is ultimately what has to matter most.
The customers aren’t banned from picking up liquor in taxis; they simply have to get out of the cab, walk into the store and purchase it themselves.
This won’t solve Prince Albert’s alcohol problems but it might help a tiny bit. And it will make this city’s taxi drivers a little safer at the same time.
Prince Albert Daily Herald