North West River store petitions for approval to sell beer

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North West River store petitions for approval to sell beer

A convenience store owner in North West River is fighting back after the municipal council voted to deny her application to sell beer. 

"People travel to Goose Bay to get beer," Susan Penney, owner of The Outpost, told the CBC.

"I decide I want a beer at 9 o'clock at night, what do I have to do? I have to travel the road to get it. The highway, people are driving impaired, it's not making safe roads."

A week after starting a petition, Penney said more than 60 people have signed and she expects to see more signatures when people come back to town from working at Voisey's Bay. 

"It's the 21st Century, we should be able to make a choice on what we want,"  Ann Cooper, who lives in North West River said.

"If we want beer in our community then we should have beer in our community. We shouldn't have to travel 33 kilometres to get a beer."

RCMP said there have been 18 charges of impaired driving over the past two years relating to the stretch of highway from North West River and Sheshatshiu to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, though none so far in 2017.

Hitchhikers can often be spotted on the road carrying cases of beer. 

"People are hitchhiking in –40 degree weather, freezing themselves to death," Penney said.

No approval

"If people were able to get beer here, who's to say that might not increase drinking and driving within town limits." said North West River Mayor Derek Montague, who did not support the store's request.

It is not the municipality which considers the applications for a brewer's distributor licence, but one of the requirements is written approval from the municipality.

"It is a very tough issue and the argument on both sides is legitimate," Montague said. "On one side you can understand where they are coming from ... We're not a dry community and a lot of people want the convenience and they want to spend their money locally."

The council voted not to give approval for beer to be sold at the Outpost last November. One concern was the Innu Nation treatment centre located just down the road from the store.

Montague said it was empathy with people that are the most vulnerable that drove his decision.

"I am a gambling addict. I've struggled with addiction for the past six years," Montague said. "I couldn't say that I was comfortable with putting my name on a piece of paper saying I approve easier access [to alcohol.]"

In her request to the town, Penney does attempt to be accommodating saying it could be done as a trial and the beer would be kept in a separate area of the store.

"I sell lottery, I sell cigarettes, everything is an addiction," Penney said. "It should have been brought to the community and the community could have voiced their own opinion on it."

"You're in treatment to learn to cope with your addiction, not get rid of your addiction," said Ann Cooper. "Do people have to stay in North West River, Sheshatshiu to deal with [their addiction] and not go to Goose Bay because they're going to see beer in the store?"

The mayor said if the petition is brought forward to council, it will be discussed at the next meeting on April 10.