Territory to look at liquor licence shift after MMA dispute

James Williams
Yellowknife's James Williams, left, was set to fight in Saturday's event.
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Liquor licensing rules in the Northwest Territories could be altered after this week’s dispute over the denial of a licence for a mixed martial arts night.

The Warrior Strong Fight League decided to postpone Saturday’s fights after the territory’s liquor licensing board rejected an application to sell alcohol at the event, on the grounds it was late and incomplete.

The promoters objected to that decision on several counts, among them exasperation that the board required notification a full 45 days prior to a major event of that size.

Read: Warrior Strong MMA night will return in June, tickets still valid

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Organizers said that stood in stark contrast to the neighbouring territories of Yukon and Nunavut – which, they claimed, ask for just a few days’ notice.

Now, the minister responsible – Michael Miltenberger – has told Moose FM he’ll take another look at the regulations.

“The turnaround time they have [in Yukon and Nunavut] is considerably shorter,” Miltenberger noted.

“I don’t know why or how the number 45 was picked, but I can only assume that, when we look at that, there’s going to be some room to move on that.”

Miltenberger did, however, broadly defend the board’s decision regarding the Warrior Strong event.

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“There’s a process. The board did their job and they made a decision, all the bases weren’t touched by the folks,” he told Moose FM.

“Can I appreciate the fact that people are frustrated? Yes. But the reality is that there is a process to be followed.”

‘Pick and choose’

Miltenberger also appeared to attack MLA Daryl Dolynny for his attempt to apply political pressure earlier in the week.

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Dolynny had asked the territorial government to step in and help the event promoters, a suggestion Miltenberger implied was tantamount to ‘tampering’ with the system.

“This has now become something of a political issue. Can we just pick and choose when to apply the legislation? No,” said Miltenberger.

“The legislation is drafted to be politically tamper-proof for this very reason – to avoid circumstances where political pressure, due or undue, can be brought to bear to try to influence what is a good decision, based on the law and how it should be applied.”

Meanwhile, James Williams – the Yellowknife fighter who would have starred in the weekend’s event, had it gone ahead – told Moose FM he had called his opponent to apologize for the debacle.

“We know each other well, we’ve fought on the same card,” said Williams. “He was all set to come up here.”

Williams and other fighters must now return to several more weeks of training as promoters race to rearrange the event for next month, with a smaller audience to allow for a liquor licence to be processed in time.

“It’s really important that this event is a success,” said Williams, “for everything we are trying to do to build the sport.”

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