If the provincial government allows beer and wine on the shelves of supermarkets it will devastate private liquor stores, say the owners of independent Squamish outlets.
Last Thursday (Nov. 28), Parliamentary Secretary John Yap announced he endorses alcohol sales in grocery stores. His statement came three days after he handed B.C.’s Liquor Policy Review over to B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton.
Under the proposed changes, B.C. would maintain its current cap on the number of liquor outlets in the province, he stated in a press release. Yap also recommended liquor be separate from grocery products, ensuring that minors can’t purchase them.
B.C. citizens feel strongly that the current retail model hasn’t kept pace with consumer expectations, Yap said of comments received during the review.
“British Columbians lead busy lives and 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 six-pack with their groceries,” he said.
Not everybody’s popping the champagne, though. The regulatory change would destroy thousands of B.C. jobs and leave small business owners high and dry, warned Phil Salazar, co-owner of Squamish Liquor Store in Chieftain Plaza. His store employs eight to nine people, he said, noting there are more than 600 privately owned liquor stores throughout B.C.
“We have invested so much,” Salazar said.
Countries that allow alcohol sales in grocery stores created their systems from the outset, he said. In B.C., individual owners poured money into private businesses that fit within the government’s restrictions, he noted.
Prices on beer and wine in supermarkets won’t be any cheaper than what’s on his shelves, Falaxar said. Canadian governments dictate liquor rates as a result of taxation, he said.
If the changes are adopted, Salazar said he hopes that in addition to maintaining B.C.’s cap on the number of liquor licences, Victoria keeps its policy requiring liquor stores to be no less than a kilometre apart. That regulation would prevent liquor stores from popping up at Squamish’s supermarkets, he noted.
“We just hope the government we elected will make the right move,” Salazar said, adding he submitted his comments to the government.
The change would put small stores out of business and place profits in the hands of large corporations, said Scott McQuade, owner of Scotties Liquor Store.
“We’ve invested millions through a model the government set-up,” he said.
The Liquor Policy Review puts forward 70 recommendations aiming to modernize B.C.’s liquor laws. It is anticipated the entire report will be released in the new year once cabinet has the opportunity to consider it.