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Resort readies for sale of booze at Whistler Farmers' Market

Several local companies get ready to show products this summer
local libations The Pemberton Distillery is one local liquor producer interested in selling its products at the Whistler Farmers' Market. Photo submitted

The municipality is clearing any legislative hurdles to allow the sale and sampling of B.C.-made wine, beer, cider and spirits at the Whistler Farmers' Market.

The rules will apply to other festivals and events, too.

"We've been working on that with them for a while," said Chris Quinlan, market manager, of his discussions with the municipality.

"It's just an added experience and atmosphere for our guests but it's also consistent with what we do at farmers' markets."

The goal is to have samples and sales in place for the July markets but the province has yet to officially approve the legislation.

At its May 20 meeting, council gave the nod to bylaw amendments in anticipation of provincial changes to the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. Those changes will allow B.C. liquor manufacturers to offer products for sample and sale at temporary off-site retail locations, just one of 73 recommendations to flow out of last fall's B.C. Liquor Policy Review.

The municipality's Zoning Bylaw strictly limits retail liquor sales to nine established liquor stores, currently. These changes will allow event-related types of retail liquor sales.

Quinlan said there has already been lots of interest in the concept from local producers such as the Pemberton Distillery, the Whistler Brewery and Deep Cove Brewery, as well as some wine producers.

Tyler Schramm, master distiller and owner of the Pemberton Distillery, has had a stall at the market for the past four years, selling extracts and cocktail syrups.

"We're definitely interested in selling alcohol," he said.

"We're really a very local product. Our raw material comes just down the street from the distillery (Pemberton potatoes go into Schramm Organic Potato Vodka). The farmers' market fits in really well."

Whistler has set a maximum limit of two producers at any given market.

"We want to keep it fair for everybody," said Quinlan, adding that they are also cognizant of any potential impacts to the nearby cold beer and wine store.

The zoning bylaw changes will allow retail liquor sales but only when "inherently related to a festival or event," stated the staff report; in other words, at the farmers' market, a beer festival or a wine festival.

Quinlan said at the farmers' market the samples must be finished at the producers' tents. The producers are also in charge of making sure there is no underage sampling.

He is looking forward to the changes coming this year.

"The market this year is jam packed," said Quinlan.

At the first Sunday market, set for June 15, there will be 80 vendors.

Quinlan added: "That's the biggest start we've ever had."