Business advocate, winemakers call for relaxed homemade alcohol laws in line with western provinces – Winnipeg

Colin Swanston fields questions weekly from customers hoping to make wine for special occasions like weddings — but his answers aren’t as straightforward as he’d like.

“We have to ask them, ‘Are you making it? Are you having a wedding on private property? Are you getting a hall? Because if you’re doing a hall, you can’t do it,’” Swanston, who co-owns Wine Sense, told Global News on Wednesday.

Swanston’s stores provide in-store brewing and sell starter kits.

However, under provincial law, Manitobans can’t offer homemade alcohol at events that require liquor permits.

“(Customers will) be kind of giving us a quizzical look going, ‘Well, why can’t we do that here?’”

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B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan either already have or are on their way to having more relaxed laws surrounding homemade alcohol at private events.

It’s something local commercial winery owner Willows Christopher also supports.

“I think there’s a lot of modernization that definitely could happen in the Manitoba liquor industry,” said Christopher, who co-founded Shrugging Doctor Beverage Company.

In-store brewing and starter kits could be an affordable compromise that still offer some oversight, he said.

“We have to go through all these kind of health tests to prove that it’s safe. If people are making wine at home and then serving it to people … how are they proving it’s safe?” Christopher said.

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Coronavirus shutdown is good for homebrew businesses

But the provincial government isn’t biting for now at least, the Retail Council of Canada said.

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John Graham told 680 CJOB he sent Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen a letter in October.

“The response initially was really that there’s a lot of work that goes into making these changes, and we’d have to consult a lot of other people to make those changes that have been easily adapted in B.C. and Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and beyond, ” said Graham, the association’s director of government relations for the Prairies.

“There’s a lot of flexibility (in those provinces) because there’s an understanding that there’s a system in place.”

Graham said he reached out to the justice minister again on Tuesday.

When asked by Global News, the province said it isn’t considering changes to its social occasion permit regulation.

“While amendments have been made to allow for homemade wine and beer to be used as raffle prizes, service and consumption is a complex issue that spans public health, food and beverage production, as well as liquor service laws,” a spokesperson told Global News on Thursday.

“Any changes on complex issues like this that impact public safety must consider a broad range of factors to ensure the safety of Manitobans is prioritized.”

Meanwhile, Swanston said he hopes they’ll reconsider, so Manitobans can celebrate with a personal touch and without breaking the bank, and small businesses like his can get a boost recovering from the pandemic.

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Click to play video: 'Homemade wine makers in Manitoba facing restrictions on how they enjoy their wine'

Homemade wine makers in Manitoba facing restrictions on how they enjoy their wine

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