Music to Their Ears

Article excerpt

Updated, streamlined liquor laws blending in perfect harmony with expected banner year for Manitoba's entertainment industry

The year 2014 will officially be the Year of Music in Manitoba.

The city will play host to three major awards shows -- the Juno Awards, the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards and the Western Canadian Music Awards -- in addition to more than 30 festivals and large events. Upcoming changes to Manitoba's liquor laws will make it easier for small venues, restaurants and hotels to get in on the action and provide more opportunities for performers and audiences, Premier Greg Selinger announced Wednesday.

The newly minted Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp. is streamlining and eliminating a host of outdated liquor licences -- including the cabaret licence, which caused headaches for small music venues. Those venues play an integral role in hosting marquee events like JunoFest and BreakOut West, the music festival that runs alongside the WCMAs.

Under the cabaret licence, music venues were required to have a minimum of 200 seats. "That doesn't help local bands who are in a developmental stage and can't draw 200 people. It was a huge barrier," said Sara Stasiuk, executive director of Manitoba Music, the province's industry association, and co-chairwoman of the Year in Music committee.

Under the new rules, live music venues will no longer be required to have a minimum of 200 seats. The elimination of the cabaret licence will also help electronic musicians and DJs, who are a huge live draw and represent one of the fastest-growing segments of Manitoba Music's membership. Under the old liquor laws, DJs weren't considered live entertainment. "We're hoping these changes will encourage more small live music venues," Stasiuk said. …