Report recommends liquor sales in B.C. grocery stores 

Whistler food markets concerned about proposed change

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Provincial plans to allow liquor sales in grocery stores are raising some red flags for Whistler food merchants.

Creekside Market owner Jerry Marsh feels it would be better if grocery and liquor stores remained separate, but admitted his store "would probably partake" in the new retail model if approved. He said the additional measures staff would be required to take to check ID for liquor sales would add another layer of inconvenience.

"It adds another avenue for us, as it is with cigarettes, to check for ID and puts more pressure on our staff, a lot of them are young kids, who have to take it upon themselves to ask their peers for ID," he said.

Having to cordon off retail space from grocery products to make space for alcohol would also be difficult for the Creekside store, Marsh said.

"It would certainly take a big chunk of our retail away," he noted. "You'd certainly have to crunch the numbers to see if it would be worth our while to take whatever space we'd need."

The Grocery Store owner Bob Adams echoed Marsh's remarks, saying it doesn't make sense for the size of his store, and also due to its proximity to a liquor store next door.

"I know a few people across Canada who have options to have liquor in their grocery stores, and the response is quite mixed," he added.

The decision by the province follows the B.C.-wide Liquor Policy Review.

Parliamentary Secretary John Yap announced Thursday, Nov. 28 that he is recommending the government move forward on the development and implementation of a retail model that would meet consumer demands for wider accessibility — putting liquor in grocery stores is part of that — while maintaining a high standard of public safety. Yap's recommendation is consistent with the views of three quarters of the recently concluded review's respondents.

The report also recommends keeping the current cap on the total number of retail outlets in the province and separating liquor from grocery products, ensuring restricted access to liquor for minors.

"I also feel it is critical that government maintain the current cap on the number of retail outlets in the province." Yap said in a release. "By doing this, and by keeping liquor separate from grocery products, we can increase convenience without any increased risk to the health or public safety of British Columbians."

Whistler's acting mayor and council's appointed representative on the municipal Liquor License Advisory Committee John Grills said while the suggested changes will certainly be convenient for consumers, they could have a significant impact on liquor store owners and staff.

"The government employees at the local liquor stores and staff at independent beer and wine stores would be very concerned for their jobs and their businesses," he said.

"In the case of the private beer and wine stores, the government has the ability to adjust the discount they receive from the liquor distribution branch, and maybe that's something that will come along with this to give them more of a chance of keeping their business models working."

So public and private liquor stores have time to adapt to the proposed changes, Yap recommends the B.C. government adopt a phased implementation of the new retail model.

The full report, which contains more than 70 recommendations, is expected for release to the public early in the New Year, with some individual recommendations to be released over the coming weeks.



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