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Minister Coleman involved in Games liquor closures

Cops and liquor retailers witnessed customers exit stores and guzzle the booze they just bought during the 2010 Winter Olympics, according to a letter by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch’s general manager to retailers.

“I am acutely aware of the sales and business impacts an earlier closure will have on your licensee retail store, however I must balance that consideration with the overriding need to protect public safety and the public interest in the sale and consumption of liquor,” Karen Ayers wrote to 15 West End and downtown licensees on Feb. 20. The stores were ordered to close four hours early at 7 p.m.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show minister responsible Rich Coleman weighed in Feb. 21, even before officials conferred with the Vancouver Police and city hall.

“I want them to close at 7 p.m. again tonight,” Coleman wrote to Liquor Distribution Branch general manager Jay Chambers. “We will probably go back to normal tomorrow.”

Stores were also ordered to shut early on Feb. 26, 27 and 28, but problems persisted. Supt. Warren Lemcke reported 2,569 liquor pourouts, 93 violation tickets, 30 public drunkenness and breach of peace arrests and 10 fights on Feb. 27.

The boozing began much earlier Feb. 28 when Vancouverites celebrated the men’s hockey gold medal. At 5:23 p.m., Ayers emailed Chambers: “Police are struggling to maintain order and the Cambie Store is identified as problematic. I know they close at 6 but can they close now?”

Bob Mackin reports for 24 Hours.

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