New Brunswick’s prohibitive liquor licensing makes it difficult for freshmen to find fresh meals. Popular restaurants such as RustiCo and MOCO are legally unable to seat anyone under the age of 19 unless they’re with a parent.
Restaurants such as those have what New Brunswick calls a lounge license. According to the Government of New Brunswick’s Public Safety website, a lounge license “does not permit persons under the age of nineteen to be on the licensed premises without parental accompaniment.”
This is not the only type of liquor license to be found in Fredericton. A dining-room licence is listed as a permit that “permits persons under the age of nineteen to be on the premises without parental accompaniment.” Isaac’s Way on Queen Street is an example of an establishment with a dining-room license.
Isaac’s Way serves both food and alcohol, but is able to seat people who aren't nineteen yet. For a freshman whose birthday is late in the semester, Isaac’s Way is a godsent break from the never-ending stream of takeout and poutine.
When asked over the phone if they were able to seat diners under the legal drinking age, Doug Williams, general manager at RustiCo very passionately said, “No.”
Not being able to seat young people is hard on business, especially in a city heavily populated by university-aged students.
“Call your MLA,” said Williams. “Tell them what you think [about the liquor laws]. That’s the only way it changes – Public Safety doesn’t care. Call the Premier’s office and complain about it; ask why the liquor licensing in New Brunswick hasn’t been updated since the 1950s. The liquor licensing… needs to be brought into even the 20th century – its archaic.”
Other restaurant employees interviewed were not as anti-lounge license as RustiCo, but one thing seems clear: Frederictonians want to be able to eat in nice restaurants, and nice restaurants want to serve them. It seems unclear why certain restaurants are given a lounge license over a dining-room license, but that only serves to make it more unpredictable for young students venturing downtown to find a meal.
There are few things that can make a first-year student’s heart sink lower than the words, “Can I see your ID?” Usually those words are uttered at a bar or at the liquor store, but the real kicker is when they’re said right at the entrance of a restaurant, when your stomach is empty and you’ve just walked across the city in the middle of winter.
Most of the time, the only refuge from New Brunswick’s bizarre liquor policies (which include strangely specific permits and special licences for anyone trying to sell wine to priests) can be found in places like Smoke’s Poutinerie (conveniently located right around the corner from Klub Khrome), Jack’s or Luna Pizza. Isaac’s Way and small cafés around town are some of the few options that doesn’t involve cheese or grease.
Fredericton’s lack of restaurants for eighteen year-olds is only one of the plagues of the first-year student. Sometimes meal hall just doesn’t cut it...