HWY 6 Hotel was part of Closing Time: The Vanishing Prairie Beverage Room a documentary about the modern beverage room industry. (Katelyn Boulanger, Interlake Publishing, Postmedia Network)
Closing Time: The Vanishing Prairie Beverage Room is a documentary that examines Manitoba’s beverage rooms and why many are going out of business. Two of the beverage rooms in the documentary were from the Interlake region.
“It’s about how at one time these places were the place to go to. They were the happy place where everybody went to eat and drink and now it’s slowly declining and people don’t go there anymore and the documentary delves into why,” the producer of Closing Time, Karen Tusa, said.
The two beverage rooms from the Interlake in the documentary are The Boot Tavern in East Selkirk and The HWY 6 Hotel near Oak Point.
“Beverage rooms have hotels attached to them, they are not the same as a bar, they only are allowed to get 17% profit now whereas retail gets 30% so they are finding it really hard to survive,” Tusa said.
The documentary focused on the restrictions placed on beverage rooms’ ability to do business in the province compared to regular bars.
Tusa said that the decline in beverage rooms is also due to multiple factors that include changing trends such as smoking no longer being allowed inside, people not wanting to drink and drive and the inaccessibility of taxis in rural areas.
“(Beverage room owners) are saying that if the government doesn’t do something about it the businesses are going to go under, but then some of them are having success,” she said.
Though there has been a decline in the industry that doesn’t mean that all beverage rooms will become relics of the past.
“There are two to three rural Manitoba hotels closing down every month and (the documentary crew) didn’t just want to be negative. They wanted to interview an owner of a rural hotel that is successful. Based on that, I agreed to do the interview and they actually filmed a lot of the documentary in The Boot Tavern as it made more sense for some other hotel owners to come to that spot," Conrad Seniuk the owner of The Boot Tavern said.
Seniuk said he owes his success to location and diversification of his business.
“A lot (of the success of The Boot Motel) has to do with demographics. I’m classified as a rural hotel, but there are 17,000 people living just 45 seconds over the bridge. Another huge (reason for The Boot Taverns success) is that you can’t just serve liquor anymore. If you went to the local bar before Facebook and before Google it was more of a social thing. If someone had a problem they asked someone else and someone else might have the answer. It was very sociable. Now I’ve transformed the hotel that sold mainly liquor into a tavern steakhouse. Food is a major component of being successful,” he said.
The documentary tells the stories of seven beverage rooms across Manitoba, with interviews from the Liquor and Gaming Authority to give the viewer a picture of what business is like for these places. It aired on MTS Stories.