The B.C. government will look at allowing sales of beer and wine in grocery stores, but if the plan goes ahead don’t expect super cheap deals on bottles of wine, like in the U.S. or Alberta.
John Yap, parliamentary secretary for the B.C. Liquor Policy Review, said the government will likely look at so-called “store within a store” models found in Ontario.
That means the Liquor Distribution Branch or current licensed wine and beer retail stores would be allowed to operate a business within a supermarket chain.
B.C. already allows independent grocery stores in rural areas to sell liquor, including spirits, beer, cider and wine.
Yap was at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday to speak about some of the more popular ideas he’s heard from the public during the review process. He said the provincial government is considering selling alcohol in grocery stores after receiving overwhelming support for the idea on a blog encouraging public consultation on how to overhaul B.C.’s outdated liquor policies.
He said 80 per cent of the comments so far during the 84 days of consultations have been in support of selling booze at grocery stores.
“The idea of selling beer and wine, particularly in grocery stores has been such a popular one, that we are going to start exploring which models work for B.C.,” said Yap, adding that the store within a store model could address concerns about whether minors would have easier access to alcohol if the large grocery chains were allowed to sell the products.
Although many of the comments have been from residents who want retailers like Safeway or Costco to sell beer and wine, Yap said authorities are trying to strike a balance.
“We recognize British Columbians want convenience and access that those other jurisdictions have,” he said. “But we also have heard that we need to take a cautionary approach to the public safety and health.”
Residents can post their comments until midnight on Thursday to voice their ideas, either by email, leaving comments on the liquor policy review blog or on Twitter using the hashtag “bcliquor.”
The recommendations are expected to be included in Yap’s report to the B.C. government on Nov. 25.
The Canadian Restaurant and Food Association has submitted eight recommendations to the review saying that B.C.’s liquor control system is out of date and needlessly complex.
Among the suggestions are to allow Happy Hour and introduce a flat-tax in licensed premises which would lower prices by 15 to 20 per cent.
B.C. is the only province in Canada that doesn’t allow licensees to change their prices during the course of a day, which nixes Happy Hour, a popular concept in cities all over the world that allows drinking establishments to offer cheaper drinks, usually around 5 p.m.