Change tackles unfairness for independent wine store licensees

THE Government of British Columbia is amending regulations to allow all remaining independent wine stores (IWS) in the province to convert their licence type to sell beer, cider and distilled products in their current locations.

This change will likely result in the elimination of the IWS retail licence class, which consists of 11 retail licensee locations provincewide.

Historically, IWS were a licence type established to promote wine sales in the province, where licence holders were restricted to selling wine only. In exchange for the sales restriction, IWS operators received an additional discount on the wholesale price of wine that other liquor retail store operators did not.

In 2015, the previous government eliminated the IWS wholesale discount. In exchange, IWS licensees were given the option to sell other products by converting into full-service liquor stores. However, the policy change required that if they converted, the full-service licence store could not be located within one kilometre of an existing public or private liquor store. As a result, only one IWS converted under the new policy.

This rule amendment allows the remaining 11 IWS locations in the province to convert to a full-service liquor store without having to relocate one kilometre away from other liquor stores, if they wish to convert and stay in their current location. If an IWS chooses to move after converting its licence type or as part of the process of converting, it will be subject to the one-kilometre rule.

Government is not considering revisions to the one-kilometre distance requirement for any other retail licence types and will not be increasing the number of retail liquor licences in the province. This reform will address the unfairness for IWS retail licensees that resulted from the removal of the IWS discount in 2015 and has been made in a manner consistent with a recommendation from the Business Technical Advisory Panel (BTAP), an industry advisory group to government.

The Province continues to act on BTAP recommendations, while also supporting industry recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Temporary measures taken to support the industry so far include allowing hospitality licensees to purchase liquor at wholesale price until March 31, 2021, permitting the expansion of service area footprints through an expedited process and authorizing food-primary and liquor-primary licensees to sell packaged liquor for off-site consumption with the purchase of a meal.