Penticton ranks among B.C.'s highest for liquor sales

A recent survey shows that the B.C. Liquor Store in Penticton is among the busiest in the province.

According to the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch, the Penticton Plaza store had just over $18.5 million of sales for last year. This works out to be about $563 per person (based on 2011 census population figures) in Penticton spent on booze.

The Vancouver Province recently listed Whistler as the B.C. community that drinks the most alcohol, with data showing residents there spend $967 (per-capita) annually.

It might come as a surprise to some, considering Penticton’s location, sitting in the fertile wine valley.

“This is where the real nuance is in terms of how the data is reflected …  when people visit the Okanagan and they want to purchase wine, they will go directly to the winery and not to our liquor stores, and those purchases aren’t reflected in the data that you see,” said Tarina Palmer, spokeswoman for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

In comparison, Vernon (which boasts a population similar to Penticton’s) spent $319.55 per person last year on alcohol. Kelowna spent $523 per person in 2011-2012.

“You guys are still drinking, you’re OK,” joked Palmer.

Complicating that per-capita sales figure in Penticton is the population influx for summer vacation. Tourism Penticton estimates that the city’s population can more than double during the busy tourist season. According to the B.C. Wine Institute, 24.5 per cent of B.C. VQA sales comes from the provincial liquor stores while the same amount is accounted for from wineries.

Kelly Malone, winemaker from Hillside and co-chair of the Naramata Bench Winery Association board of directors, agreed with Palmer that most of the tourist traffic that comes through the Okanagan probably goes to the wineries to pick up a bottle, rather than a B.C. Liquor Store or a cold beer and wine store.

Capturing accurate stats outside of B.C. Liquor Stores is what the Naramata Bench Winery Association is setting out to do. Malone said they circulated a survey amongst the 21 wineries in the association last year trying to collect data. While they didn’t get 100 per cent return on the survey, she said they are starting to see what the figures look like. She said they plan to circulate the confidential survey amongst the current 24 wineries in the association again this year.

“The total sales in the 2011 calendar year was about $11.3 million and that turns out to be 68,000 bottles. We tried to average out how many visitors we have but no one has been able to set up a counting system,” said Malone.

“At Hillside, during our busiest times in the summer, we have about 200 people a day in our bistro alone, so if you add in visitors to the winery who aren’t eating, it has to be well over 500 a day. Each winery along the way would see similar amounts.”


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