The Government of Alberta has temporarily relaxed its liquor laws to accommodate soccer fans planning to watch live broadcasts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches being held in Russia.

“This is a blanket extension of all licensees in the province for early opening hours,” said Joe Ceci, Alberta’s Minister of Finance, during Tuesday’s announcement at the The Ship & Anchor on 17 Ave S.W. “We are going to ensure that licensees in this province meet the needs of World Cup soccer fans throughout Calgary and Alberta.”

Under the new temporary rules, bars are permitted to open their doors to customers 30 minutes ahead of the start of a scheduled World Cup match and may start serving alcohol when the match begins. Given the time difference between cities in Russia and Alberta, local bars could welcome customers at 3:30 a.m. for some games and begin pouring pints as early as 4:00 a.m. .

“I think it’s going to make soccer fans across the province very happy so that they can cheer their teams on in the comfort of their local pubs, watch some great soccer, enjoy some great craft beer from Alberta and have a good time cheering on their teams,” said Ceci. “We know that the licensees are responsible in terms of enforcing DrinkSense, making sure that patrons only imbibe responsibly, that’s what we want to see them do with these opening hours.”

The extension will remain in place for the entirety of the 2018 World Cup that begins Thursday, June 14. The championship final will be played on July 15.

Province permits Alberta bars to serve during early morning World Cup games

“We’re super excited,” said Nicola Trolez of The Ship & Anchor. “The opportunity to be able to show the games live is huge and for people to be able to have a nervous pint while they watch is fantastic.”

Trolez says the pub has a legion of dedicated fans of the English side but there are strong fan bases for Columbia, Mexico, Argentina, Croatia, Spain, France, Germany and Brazil. No matter the outcome of the pool play and quarter-finals, she expects strong crowds at the bar throughout the tournament and welcomes the additional sales to kick off the summer.

“We love to provide a really fun environment to watch the sport. Obviously, being able to open earlier in the morning allows us to have more shifts for our employees and welcome more sales. It’s been a tough couple of years, as we all know, in Calgary and we’ve had some construction here on 17th (avenue) as well which has affected things slightly.”

This is not the first time Alberta has altered liquor service hours for special occasions. In previous years, alcohol sales have been permitted during the early morning broadcasts of select Olympic hockey games and in the morning hours during the Calgary Stampede.

With files from CTV’s Brad MacLeod