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Rise and Shine, It’s Drinking Time at Calgary Stampede!

At this year’s Calgary Stampede, the early bird doesn't just get the worm; they get a drink too!

Early birds with a knack for day drinking are in for a good time at this year’s upcoming Calgary Stampede

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Commission (AGLC) announced that bars, restaurants, and lounges can serve alcohol starting at 8 AM during the Stampede, which runs from July 5 to 14.

Private events with special approval from the AGLC for the earliest birds can serve alcohol at 6:30 AM. 

However, only establishments with Class A, B, and C licenses in Calgary can serve alcohol earlier in the day. 

Shaquille O’Neal, AKA DJ Diesel, performing at the Calgary Stampede in 2023
Shaquille O’Neal, AKA DJ Diesel, performing at the Calgary Stampede last year | Megan Yamoah | Global News

For the lucky businesses along the Stampede Parade route, these establishments can start serving alcohol at 7 AM on July 5. 

Before you get any crazy ideas like a 48-hour bender, it should be noted that businesses still have to stop serving liquor at 2 AM. 

Serving alcohol earlier doesn’t just benefit thirsty Stampeders. 

There are big profits to be made by serving booze during popular events like the Calgary Stampede. 

“This kind of flexibility and liquor policy is what contributes to making the Calgary Stampede the greatest show on earth and a great boon for the hospitality industry in Calgary,” Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of Restaurants Canada for Western Canada, told CBC News.According to the 2024 State of the Restaurant Industry report, 70 percent of consumers who drink beer, wine, or cocktails said the availability of alcohol would make them choose one restaurant over another.

The consumption of alcohol also skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic started in 2019, almost 80 percent of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported drinking alcohol. At least they were honest.

In particular, Albertans know how to drink. In 2015, Albertans drank 135 litres of alcohol per adult per year, the highest of any province other than Quebec.

An aerial view of the 2016 Calgary Stampede
An aerial view of the 2016 Calgary Stampede | Andy Nichols | Calgary Stampede

Volume Down, Bottoms Up

Alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic, but recent figures show that alcohol consumption is actually dropping, especially among younger age groups. 

Alcohol Drinks
Younger generations are drinking at least 20 percent less alcohol than Millenials | The Rokies.Life Staff

Statistics Canada found that alcohol sales based on volume fell by over one percent, or 3,106 million litres, between 2022 and 2023. 

“On average, Canadians of legal drinking age consumed 9.2 standard alcoholic beverages per week, down from 9.5 the previous year,” wrote Statistics Canada in its report

While some put down the bottle after the pandemic, many opted to substitute cannabis for drinking. 

Recreational cannabis sales by provincial authorities increased by almost 16 percent between 2022 and 2023. 

Although the total volume of alcohol sold decreased, the revenue from liquor sales increased that year due to inflation.

When it comes to availability, alcohol has an advantage over cannabis. Alcohol is served just about anywhere, from restaurants to some convenience stores.

Meanwhile, recreational cannabis sales are limited to government-run stores or licensed private retailers. 

Cannabis use in Stampede Park is also prohibited, making alcohol the go-to for most Stampeders looking to loosen up. 

Budweiser Calgary Stampede Beer Cans
Budweiser’s custom beer can for the 2016 Calgary Stampede | Kam Shot | Flickr

Thunderstorms, wildfire smoke, and scorching hot temperatures didn’t stop almost 1.4 million people from attending last year’s Calgary Stampede. 

This year’s attendance could be higher and even break the event’s attendance record of 1,409,371 in 2012!

Budweiser wouldn’t have partnered with the Calgary Stampede if alcohol sales weren’t through the roof!

Serving alcohol earlier seems like a win for everyone. 

Stampeders get to visit their favourite watering holes earlier, and the hospitality and alcohol industry profits.

But let’s be smart; don’t drink and drive.

With 24-hour CTrain service, extended hours on many bus routes and two Express Stampede bus routes, transit is a great way to get to and from Stampede Park and your favourite watering hole. 

Happy Stampede!

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