06/21/2012 08:00 EDT | Updated 08/21/2012 05:12 EDT

P.E.I. allows breakfast cocktails at restaurants

Starting this Saturday, Islanders will be able to order an alcoholic drink with breakfast.

The provincial government is allowing bars and restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 9 a.m., two hours earlier than what’s permitted now.

Robert Henderson, minister of tourism and culture, said the change will be good for the province’s tourism industry.

“We have cruise ships, visitors that come here to Prince Edward Island, and restaurants and facilities like that would like to open at times where they can try to get some of that particular business,” he said.

Visitors have certain expectations, said Don Cudmore, with the province's Tourism Industry Association.

“It is for the convenience of the travelling public, as far as we’re concerned,” he said.

Cudmore said the association has written the liquor corporation several times over the years, asking for more flexible liquor regulations. He said the rules were "rather archaic."

Cutting costs

This is the latest change to the province’s liquor regulations.

Henderson has cut costs by laying off about 16 workers. He also reduced hours at some stores, including the one in Cardigan, where two people have not been hired back this summer.

Steven Myers, Conservative finance critic, said it really comes down to dollars and cents.

“It’s all about money to these guys, no question about it. I mean, if this is what they’re talking about in cabinet when we still have wait times for knee replacement,” he said.

Henderson admits revenue is important.

“Yes, we are wanting to maximize profits and decrease expenses as best we can. But we also want to dispense alcohol in a responsible fashion,” he said.

Health worries

Henderson shrugs off any suggestion that serving liquor earlier will cause more underage drinking and addictions.

“If they’re seeking alcohol, they’re going to find it,” he said.

Still, the Medical Society of P.E.I. is worried about loosening the regulations. Rachel Kassner, the group's president, said they weren't consulted about the changes.

"When you look at the problem that we already have with alcoholism on P.E.I., we will not be supporting this," she said.