Liquids we know and love
Alcohol still the favored fuel in Yellowknife

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 29/97) - Yellowknife was built on greed and fuelled by alcohol, so the saying goes.

Booze chartIn the years that have passed since its founding, the city has become more sophisticated. But some things, at least one thing, has remained the same.

Statistics indicate alcohol is still the fuel of choice among Yellowknifers.

The capital has about a quarter of the population of the territories, but accounts for more than half the alcohol sold in the North, according to NWT Liquor Commission statistics.

Last year we quaffed the equivalent of 885,630 six-packs of beer, 289,333 bottles of liquor and 206,667 bottles of wine, according to the commission's annual report.

That's a six-pack of beer and a third of a bottle of hard liquor per week, plus a bottle of wine each month, for every man, woman and child in the city.

Of course, not all liquor sold through Yellowknife stays in Yellowknife. According to the commission, surrounding communities account for about 10 per cent of sales.

With more than 70 liquor licensed issued to Yellowknife businesses, no matter where you live you don't have far to go for a drink.

But the favored source of liquid spirit, by far, is the liquor store.

Just under 70 per cent of the alcohol sold was bought at the busiest, biggest and best stocked of the seven liquor stores in the territories.

Not surprisingly, the busiest times there are the weekends. A little more surprising are the seasonal peaks.

"July is busier than December," said liquor store owner Albert Eggenberger. "In the summertime, people are out by the lake, fishing or whatever, and the tourists are in town, so sales go up."

Eggenberger has a long-term contract with the commission for the store, which he built. The commission sets prices and Eggenberger gets a commission on sales.

Of course, being the main source of the liquids we love, the liquor store is the site of more than its share of misunderstandings, disagreements and disputes.

And it's at the checkouts where insistent thirsts sometimes clash with the inflexible laws governing the sale of alcohol.

Being 19 years of age or older is the most widely known, but not the only, requirement for buying alcohol.

Liquor must not be sold to those upon whom the courts have imposed an alcohol ban. The store carries a list of those banned. And it can't sell to those who are "apparently under the influence of alcohol."

"That's one we have problems with almost every day," said Eggenberger. The people most responsible for enforcing the rule are the cashiers.

"They're under a lot of pressure, and they take quite a bit of abuse," said Eggenberger, noting a few have quit as a result.