Trent Ernst, Editor
For the last three months, John Yap has been looking at new models for BC liquor laws. One of the most popular, and controversial, is the idea of liquor in grocery stores.
“We want to make changes that reflect current BC lifestyles and bring greater convenience to both consumers and businesses,” writes Yap on his blog. “While the majority of comments I’ve read are in favour of the idea, there are concerns that have come up as well – particularly around health and safety. What are your ideas around how BC could strike the right balance?”
Yap says that of all the ideas being floated around, this one is by far the most popular. “It seems greater convenience is the biggest driver behind this idea – but does that mean we should just open up liquor sales for all grocery stores? What about convenience stores?”
If liquor is allowed to be sold in grocery stores and/or convenience stores, where will the line be drawn? Will they only be selling beer, wine and coolers, or will hard alcohol be sold there, too?
And it isn’t just grocery and convenience stores. “Over the past ten years, BC has seen a big rise in the popularity of local farmers markets – both as a fun family outing, but also as a way for small local businesses to sell their locally-made products straight to area residents and tourists,” writes Yap. “What do you think about local craft beer, wine and spirits makers being able to sell their products at farmers markets? Imagine a local winery selling their latest vintage next to the baker who sells you the fresh baguette and the local cheese maker with the unique varieties of goat’s cheese. Or a craft brewery or distillery selling their latest batch alongside the displays of seasonal fruit and vegetables? Or perhaps this would alter the ‘family-friendly’ feeling of these markets?”
Yap says that a store-within-a-store model might be an option. “How this could work would be private liquor stores and/or BC government liquor stores operating under the same roof as a grocery store, but with separate staff and cashiers. This could help address concerns I’ve heard about whether minors would have easier access to liquor if it were available down the grocery aisles.”
Finally, says Yap, what about the issues of health and safety? “When this topic comes up in my meetings with health, safety and law and order advocates, the question will surely become that already we see 30 percent of the late-night attendees at a typical BC emergency department report alcohol consumption in the six hours prior to their injury or illness; if we make it more available for the sake of convenience, will we see rates like these rise?”
The store-within-a-store model is in place in Nova Scotia and in Ontario. Down in the US, you can buy liquor at corner stores.
Yap is currently preparing his final report for the government.