July 4, 2014 8:07 pm

Should Alberta modernize its liquor laws?

Watch above: The province took a step to modernize its liquor distribution centre Friday, and there are hints changes could be coming to liquor laws as well. Eric Szeto explains.

EDMONTON – When it comes to booze, Albertans are no stranger to sipping a glass of wine or kicking back with a cold beer.

According to the province, 76 per cent of Albertans consume alcohol; and the province leads the way nationally in alcohol sales growth. There are more than 1,900 liquor retailers in Alberta, selling nearly 19,000 products.

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“We have the largest selection of product of any province in Canada,” said Finance Minister Doug Horner.

And now, changes to the province’s liquor laws could be on the horizon, the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission hinted Friday.

Bill Robinson with the AGLC says the agency is preparing a broad-based review of liquor laws and policies in Alberta, which were last overhauled in 2008.

“One of the things that has been mentioned is closing times. We certainly haven’t come to ground on closing times, there’s going to have to be a great deal more work. We want to look at best practices across the world, not just in North America.”

In February, bars and pubs across the province were allowed to open and begin serving alcohol at 5 a.m. as hockey fans cheered the Canadian men’s hockey team on to Olympic gold.

READ MORE: Alberta bars to open early for gold medal game

On Wednesday, the province authorized Calgary establishments to begin alcohol service at 8 a.m. (instead of the usual 10 a.m.) for the next nine days for the ‘greatest show on earth’, the Calgary Stampede.

While these changes are temporary, there is an appetite for more relaxed rules.

“We’d be accepting of any change and we’d obviously take it with strides,” explained Cathal O’Byrne, owner and GM of O’Byrne’s Irish Pub on Whyte Avenue.

“Something we would like to see is maybe a little more leniency on last call hours. I think if there was a soft last call and then a final last call it would work a lot better.”

While earlier serving times and later opening times are open for discussion, Horner maintains Albertans will not be able to buy alcohol in grocery or corner stores any time soon.

“Maybe that’s going to change down the road, but not at this time. We’re not even looking at it. It’s not on the radar.”

Robinson says the AGLC will be consulting with stakeholders, police and community members over the next year, to ensure Alberta has a “cutting edge” system.

“We want to take a look at everything across the board to see if it’s efficient, to see if it serves the needs of Albertans,” he said. “It’s a mature market. We want to make sure we have the best policies and laws in place to be able to appeal to those people.”

Quickfacts Liquor

With files from Eric Szeto, Global News.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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