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‘This has to stop’: Liquor store in Winnipeg to close after employees assaulted


November 21, 2019
By The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — Three Manitoba liquor store workers were assaulted and one was taken to hospital in what the province’s Crown corporation calls an unprovoked attack.

It happened in Winnipeg on Wednesday and has prompted Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries to temporarily close the store while it sets up a new secure entrance where customers will have to show photo identification before entering.

Thefts at Manitoba’s government-run liquor stores have been increasing and the corporation’s CEO, Manny Atwal, says liquor stores have been “under siege” now for more than a year.

Atwal says other stores will also eventually be fitted with secure entrances, and the thefts are a part of a larger societal issue that needs to be addressed by retailers, governments and others.

Loss prevention officers and liquor store workers are being told not to physically stop thieves.

Since last year, videos have been posted online of groups of people walking into stores, filling bags and simply walking out.

“Our employees … should not have to come to work every day wondering how many times somebody will threaten them, or how many times someone will try to harm them or harm one of our customers,” Atwal says.

“This has to stop.”

The union that represents liquor store workers called on the provincial government to act.

“This situation is out of control, not just in our liquor marts, but also in private retail stores,” Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees union, said in a written statement.

“We need an urgent summit of law enforcement, addictions and social services, public and private retailers, unions and the provincial government.”

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has rejected the idea of reverting to the system used decades ago when liquor was stored behind counters and customers had to ask workers to retrieve their items. A similar system is used in private cannabis stores in Manitoba.

The Crown corporation says retrofitting its retail liquor outlets to store booze in secure areas would cost millions of dollars and take a long time.

The corporation announced new security measures in March such as lockable displays for high-value products and extra security guards, but thefts continued. Some 10 to 20 liquor thefts are reported every day in Winnipeg alone, the city’s police force said recently.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2019.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2019