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TheRockies.Life Staff

Will Liquor Finally Flow in This Historic Town?

Cardston, which has been dry for a century, is considering changing a bylaw to allow restaurants and venues to serve alcohol

In the town of Cardston, there is a discussion about changing a bylaw that would permit restaurants and large venues to serve liquor.

Cardston, known for its non-drinking Mormon community, let citizens vote to gauge public opinion on the matter. The results were close, with 53 percent in favour and 47 percent against.

Some business owners in Cardston are in favour of the change. Tanner Leavitt, the owner of Guero Taco, expressed his surprise at the results and hopes for positive outcomes.

“I am hopeful for what this could bring…the councillors I’ve reached out to seem willing to move forward based on this,” Leavitt told CBC News.

The results of the local’s vote are not binding, but they will be considered by the council as they continue to evaluate the potential bylaw change.

The next step in the process will be a public hearing to gather more input from the community. 

cardston residents using a horse and buggy to transport a family
A family enjoying a traditional horse and buggy ride with the Cardston Temple in the background | Cardston Website | CTV News

The proposed changes to the bylaw would allow certain licenses for food-first restaurants and large facilities where alcohol could be consumed on-site. However, it would not permit the opening of liquor stores in the town.

In the past, the council’s opinions on allowing liquor licenses were divided. A previous vote in 2014 resulted in the majority of voters choosing to maintain Cardston’s dry status, which has been in place since 1923.

Cardston, with a population of more than 3,700, is one of the few remaining dry towns in southern Alberta, along with Raymond and Magrath, which also have sizable Mormon populations.

Some residents, like Marsha Negrych, owner of Cobblestone Manor bed-and-breakfast, believe that allowing venues like the golf course and Agridome to serve alcohol would bring growth opportunities to the town.

Negrych mentioned that the current restrictions discourage event organizers from choosing Cardston, as participants often prefer places where they can enjoy alcoholic beverages. She also noted that visitors already bring their own alcohol from outside.

Both Negrych and Leavitt, who are Mormons and do not drink alcohol themselves, believe that visitors to their town should have the freedom to make their own choices.

They argue that denying people the option to consume alcohol goes against personal freedom.

Changing the bylaw would also benefit Negrych, who plans to retire and sell her bed and breakfast. The inability to obtain a liquor license for the historic property has deterred potential buyers.

Leavitt sees the potential change as an opportunity to open a patio in the back of his restaurant. He believes allowing alcohol sales would keep more tourist spending within the town, as some visitors choose to dine elsewhere due to the dry rules.

The discussion about the bylaw change reflects the evolving perspectives in Cardston and the desire to attract more visitors while respecting individual choices.

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