Local liquor retailer OK with new rules

John Vasslaki, owner of Last Call Liquor Mart, pours some ice in his beer cooler bins. Proposed changes to B.C. liquor policy allowing grocery stores to carry alcohol, also protect small retailers like him by retaining the one-kilometre exclusion zone.   - Western News file photo
John Vasslaki, owner of Last Call Liquor Mart, pours some ice in his beer cooler bins. Proposed changes to B.C. liquor policy allowing grocery stores to carry alcohol, also protect small retailers like him by retaining the one-kilometre exclusion zone.
— image credit: Western News file photo

It seems the province was listening to presentations made during the liquor review process.

Next year, shoppers in B.C. might be able to pick up a case of beer along with their groceries, thanks to planned changes to the province’s liquor policy announced last week.

And, satisfying at least some of the requests from the existing private liquor stores, the one-kilometre zone around existing liquor stores is to be maintained, preventing small stores from being overshadowed by larger grocery stores.

“During the B.C. Liquor Policy Review consultations, I heard that consumers want convenience and choice and the industry wants government to be flexible and promote an open, fair market - these changes address both of those calls,” said John Yap, parliamentary secretary for liquor policy reform in a press release.

According to the announcement, more work is needed to clearly define what qualifies as a grocery store but convenience stores will not be included and the current moratorium on the number of private liquor stores licences will remain in place.

Under one part of the model set out, qualifying grocery stores able to obtain a private liquor licence, either transferred into or sold to the store, will be able to develop a “store within a store” with a separate checkout to sell liquor products.

A second model will be flexible to accommodate Vintners Quality Alliance licences, as well as a limited number of new licences that sell VQA wine in grocery stores.

Under this model, VQA wine will be allowed to be sold off designated shelves within the store, and purchased at designated check-out tills.

Jeff Leonard, of the Government Street Liquor Store and Wine Shoppe, said the new rules shouldn’t hurt business at existing private liquor store, though he is waiting to see what the new regulations look like when the legislation is introduced.

“Until all the rules are laid out and it is finalized, it is still up in the air. I am absolutely happy they are keeping the one-kilometre zone in there,” said Leonard, who is concerned that though the regulation has been extended to include government liquor stores, VQA wine stores were not mentioned.

“I have been assured that was an oversight on their part, but we are still waiting for them to make it official. That could potentially affect my store,” said Leonard.

As it stands now, he explained,  the Penticton IGA across from his store could get a VQA license and start selling wine.

“That would be my only concern I need some clarification on,” said Leonard.

The recently inked trade deal with South Korea could also impact the marketing  and sale of Canadian wines.

The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement lifts a 15 per cent tariff on wine. South Korea is currently Canada’s fifth largest wine export market by value, account for exports of 37,000 litres last year, valued at $2.2 million.

Tariffs on icewines, which represent 96 per cent of that total, will be eliminated immediately the deal is ratified.

All import tariffs on other wines will be eliminated over a three-year period.

Over all, South Korea will remove duties on 98.2 per cent of its tariffs covering virtually all of Canada’s imports under the CKFTA.

Jacquie Carlson, general manager of Poplar Grove and vice-chair of the Naramata Bench Wineries Association, said small and medium-size wineries like theirs should benefit from the agreement.

“We are definitely starting to look at marketing our wines to Asia,” said Carlson, adding that they have already sent wine to China and Japan and had interest from export companies to the Philippines and Taiwan.

“It is definitely something that most wineries are considering.

If it means it is easier, it will be something we will consider as will,” said Carlson, explaining that what they have found is that Asian markets are looking for niche wineries.

“This markets the people that are catering to in those Asian countries are looking for luxury brand items and for high-quality wines.

“So I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be a benefit to us.”


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