The B.C. government's liquor policy review has heard a 'loud and clear' message that people want the convenience of buying alcoholic beverages in grocery stores, says the MLA in charge of the review.
With a three-month consultation period ending Oct. 31, Richmond Steveston MLA John Yap said Tuesday that about 80 per cent of respondents want the extra convenience that is routine in U.S. grocery stores.
But Yap is proposing a less convenient model, a "store within a store" that would have separate staff for alcohol purchases. He said the number of outlets could be restricted to the current level, with some existing private or public liquor stores moved into grocery stores.
The Liquor Control Board of Ontario has announced a similar pilot project, with 10 "express" stores to offer limited selection inside or next to grocery stores. Nova Scotia also has government liquor stores located in grocery stores.
When the B.C. consultation began in September, Yap noted that beer, wine and spirits are already sold in rural grocery stores. He was critical of the U.S. model, saying it could lead to increased health, safety and law enforcement problems from increased consumption.
B.C.'s medical health officers have called for a freeze or reduction to the number of private retailers, a $3 minimum price for bar drinks and higher prices for drinks with more alcohol content to deter over-consumption.
The Alliance of Beverage Licencees, representing pubs, bars and private liquor stores in B.C., isn't happy with the idea. ABLE BC executive director Ian Baillie said the province already has more than 1,400 government and private liquor stores.
"The government also needs to consider what the impact of allowing large grocery chains to sell liquor will be on the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of income that are provided by the current system," Baillie said.