New laws for allowing liquor sales in grocery stores

Allowing liquor sales in grocery stores is the government’s response to public demand for more convenience.

  • Tue Oct 6th, 2015 10:00am
  • News

Katy Williams, Contributor

 

The B.C. government’s 2013 Liquor Policy Review lead to a number of recommendations for change; perhaps the most talked about being the introduction of liquor sales in grocery stores.

Although this recommendation took the industry by a bit of surprise, it was the government’s response to public demand for more convenience.

Consumers expressed their desire to be more like the American model of one-stop shopping where you can pick up your bottle of wine in the same store as your bottle of ketchup.

However, the government has now passed the enabling legislation for these grocery store sales of liquor and things are, of course, not as straight-forward as they originally seemed.

As with any new venture into liquor consumption, the policy-makers have taken note that moderation and caution are key to avoiding a splitting headache.

The main reason you won’t see ‘wine and beer’ aisles popping up in every neighbourhood grocery is that the government is not issuing any new liquor licenses…and won’t be until 2022.

So, if a grocery store wants to start selling liquor, it needs to partner up with an existing liquor-license holder and convince them that a location change is worth their while.

The government has made this more tenable by lifting the relocation restrictions it previously had on license holders that did not allow them to relocate more than five kilometres from their original business location.

For those lucky grocers who are able to score a liquor retail license from an existing holder, the new laws allow for two different models of liquor sales.

The first is a store-within-a-store model where the liquor sales must be in a separate area with restricted access and separate tills.

This model allows for sale of a broad range of wine and liquor in accordance with the specific terms of the liquor license. Essentially, it just relocates an existing liquor store to be within the grocery store.

The other model is a ‘wine on the shelf’ model. This model is more restricted in that it only allows for 100 per cent B.C.-produced wine to be sold.

This wine can be purchased at the grocery store’s regular tills so long as the staff making the sale are over 19 and have the Serving it Right certification required of bartenders and other liquor servers.

While this model has been criticized internationally as being counter to free trade agreements as it seemingly prefers local wine, the provincial government has stayed the course thus far.

It is yet to be seen how the introduction of liquor sales in grocery stores will affect the regular consumer.

The B.C. government has expressed its hope that this change, along with the other updates to the province’s liquor laws, will provide more convenience and choice for customers and drive the economy forward with the promotion of made-in-B.C. products. Cheers to that.

This article is provided as information only; it should not be construed as legal advice. For more information, please contact Kathy Williams at 250-869-1140 or kwilliams@pushormitchell.com. Katy is a lawyer with Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.