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Angelo Mondragon, owner of the Notre Dame Hotel, stacked beer cases outside the Manitoba Legislative Building on Monday.
Mondragon says rural hotels receive too low of a share of VLT and vendor revenues. (Brian Donogh/Winnipeg Sun)

A rural hotel owner has taken his protest for a greater share of VLT and liquor profits to the steps of the Manitoba Legislature, constructing a massive beer box “throne” at its front entrance.

“The reason I came here today with this display is to basically call attention to the province’s role in the decline of the hotels,” said Angelo Mondragon, owner of the Notre Dame Hotel, on Monday. “I’m saying to the province, ‘You want to be king of the industry? Well, here is your throne.’”

Mondragon, who is also president of the Rural Hotel Owners of Manitoba, said provincial Liquor Marts compete for rural hotels’ business, while provincial revenue structures hinder hotel profits. He blames both factors for frequent rural hotel closures, including a hotel in Holland, Man. that shut down this fall.

And while hotels didn’t close during the busy summer season, Mondragon expects more to shut down soon. Hotels in Elm Creek, Waskada and Boissevain all closed in one week this past May.

“We make enough money to be viable businesses and the government just takes it all. So there is no way to adapt,” said Mondragon.

The rural hotel group wants its share of beer vendor revenues to be increased from 17% to 30% and its portion of VLT revenues to jump from 22% to 30%. Mondragon said a sliding scale of profit sharing could apply for VLTs based on the number of machines at each hotel.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries CEO John Stinson said the corporation is listening to the demands and willing to negotiate.

Stinson said he hopes to fine-tune specific rural requests, including discussions on revenue sharing, before Christmas.

“(The demand) is not in the Twilight Zone-land at all. It’s up for discussion. Whether we can get that 30% ... let’s have the discussion,” he said. “I believe, as a Crown corporation, we have a role to play in economic development in our province.”

Ron Lemieux, the minister responsible for Liquor and Lotteries, noted the corporation’s profits raise about $500 million for the province each year, which the government depends on to provide core services.

Lemieux referred revenue-sharing questions primarily to Liquor and Lotteries.

He also stressed the province already offers hotel owners a business advantage through exclusive rights to play host to beer vendors.

“We kept that as an exclusive right to help their profit margin,” said Lemieux.