Shaking up changes to alcohol sales

Alcohol and groceriesNew rules relaxing the restrictions surrounding  alcohol sales and auctioning are changing the way British Columbians obtain spirits, wine and beer.

Premier Christy Clark announced the government’s support of B.C.-made liquor and wine sales at locally accessible venues such as farmers’ markets and festivals, a change that could affect Sun Peaks’ winter and summer events.

“We promised to bring B.C.’s liquor laws into the 21st century — to give consumers more choice, give B.C. businesses more opportunities to grow,” says Clark.

The B.C. government is also now allowing non-profit organizations and charities to auction donated alcohol. As long as the profits go toward a charitable purpose, small volumes of liquor — up to two cases of wine, eight 750 millilitre bottle of liquor or 24 six-packs of beer, cider or coolers — can be auctioned without a permit.

“The B.C. government recognized the rules around auctioning liquor were unnecessarily restrictive,” explains Suzanne Anton, attorney general and minister of justice. “These changes open the door to new fundraising opportunities for B.C’s charities and non-profits, ultimately benefiting our communities.”

These changes come in response to Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform John Yap’s recommendations to the government.

Included in his report, Yap recommended the government develop and implement new laws to introduce liquor sales into grocery stores.

“British Columbians lead busy lives,” says Yap. “My final report makes several recommendations that will bring greater convenience to citizens, including moving to a model that will allow shoppers to pick up a bottle of wine or a six-pack with their groceries.”

Among the 70 recommendations in his report, Yap suggests a cap remain on the total number of retail outlets in the province, and that liquor sales should remain separate from grocery products, despite being under the same roof.

In Sun Peaks, the Bluebird Market and Sundance Liquor Store may be affected by the potential new laws.

Rory Edward, owner of Bluebird Market, stated that in accordance with Yap’s recommendations, his grocery store and the liquor store are physically positioned to be connected by a door, but the Thompson Nicola Regional District required the access to be restricted.

“Many people don’t know that Bluebird Market and the Sundance Liquor Store were designed to be attached,” says Edward. “I’m not sure what would happen if the legislation was passed. It would be something that we would have to look at.”

Nick Cundari, owner of Sundance Liquor Store, believes the potential new grocery store/liquor store laws will have little effect on Sun Peaks businesses. He suggests the laws will require grocery stores to buy existing liquor licences; an expenditure he thinks would make little economic sense for small grocery stores.

“I think only large grocery stores will be interested in investing in a licence,” says Cundari. “Therefore, it will affect Sundance Liquor Store a lot less as we aren’t surrounded by large grocery retailers.”

The B.C. government is reviewing Yap’s recommendations and the proposal for a new law is expected to be formulated in the spring. As for Sun Peaks’ future alcohol and grocery sales, we’ll have to wait and see.

Click here for more information on the changing liquor laws.

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