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Southern Alberta town council votes against ending century-old alcohol ban

Dry community will stay dry, in terms of allowing restaurants to serve alcohol
An alcoholic beverage is seen in a drinking establishment in Halifax on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. The council of a southern Alberta town that has been dry for more than a century has voted against a motion to allow restaurants to serve alcohol. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The council of a southern Alberta town that has been dry for more than a century has voted against a motion to allow restaurants to serve alcohol.

Six out of seven councillors in Raymond, about 240 kilometres south of Calgary, voted against the motion to amend its land-use bylaw after a majority of town residents who answered a survey indicated they were opposed to the change.

“The prevailing sentiment was there’s a unique aspect to the community that the majority of respondents felt was important (to preserve),” said Kurtis Pratt, Raymond’s chief administrative officer.

“Although it wasn’t unanimous, it was a pretty strong indication to the council and, in the end, it’s the way democracy works.”

Pratt said more than half of about 890 residents who participated in the survey said they did not want restaurants to serve alcohol, no matter how much it might help the local economy.

They were also asked about “changing the community from a predominantly dry status to more of a wet or damp status,” Pratt said.

Pratt said council heard during a public meeting Tuesday night that 459 respondents wanted Raymond to remain a predominantly dry community, 238 wanted to end Prohibition altogether, 166 were in favour of a change for licensed restaurants and 22 were indifferent.

Pratt said the vote means Raymond will carry on with its ban, which began when the original properties were purchased by the town’s founder in the early 20th-century.

People can still buy booze in nearby communities to drink at home. Temporary licences can be obtained to serve alcohol at weddings and special occasions.

Pratt said approximately 2,700 out of 4,000 town residents were eligible to participate in the survey

Raymond’s ban on alcohol was part of a popular global movement in the 19th- and 20th-centuries that urged moderation or total abstinence from alcohol. It was believed drinking was responsible for many of society’s ills.

The Canada Temperance Act of 1878 gave local governments the option to ban the sale of alcohol.

Pratt said council’s latest vote against a change to the town’s liquor law doesn’t mean businesses can’t apply for a licence and restart a discussion.

“Allowing people the opportunity to feel that they’ve been heard is an important step. Overall, it’s been a healthy process and that’s really all you can ask for.”

— Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

RELATED: ‘We’ll see where it goes’: dry Alberta town surveys citizens on its alcohol ban