City gives first reading to allow liquor sales at Saturday market

New bylaws required before vendors can take advantage of relaxed provincial regulations

Local wineries, craft brewers and distillers may be serving up their products at Penticton’s Saturday markets as early as the end of July.

Penticton city council began the process of removing municipal-level obstacles this week, following suit with the province, which updated liquor regulations last month to allow sales at public markets.

“The city has to amend their bylaw first,” said Erin Trainer, manager of the Farmers’ Market. “We are waiting to see what is going to happen.”

Both the Penticton Farmers’ Market and the Downtown Community Market are eagerly awaiting the final decision from council, which may come after a public hearing at their next regular meeting on July 21.

“They (local wineries) have been calling since January. Everyone is so excited, it has just been waiting until the legislation came through and then there is that moment of disappointment when they realize, OK, the B.C. laws came through, but it still has to go through our own municipal laws,” said Kerri Milton, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association, which operates the community market.

Council introduced an amendment adding “liquor sales and or tasting within an outdoor market in accordance with the B.C. liquor control and licensing branch,” to the definition of an outdoor market.

Mayor Garry Litke said the city purposefully chose to avoid adding too much regulation to the process, preferring instead to leave that to the markets.

“We are expecting market associations will be very stringent about the enforcement of the provincial regulations,” said Litke. “What the City of Penticton has decided is to not introduce more red tape to that, to allow the provincial regulations to evolve and to serve our community.”

Liquor will be available at both markets, though they are each taking a different approach. Trainer said the farmers’ market, already tight for space, will be allowing two vendors in each week on a rotating basis.

“It is the peak season right now, so all of our farmers are wanting to come right now,” said Trainer. All of the stalls, she said, are usually sold by January; when one of those vendors lets her know they won’t be attending, Trainer rotates someone else in from their list of casual vendors. She said she will be using a similar system for the wineries.  “We are now building a list of applications. The wineries that align closest to our values, like the smaller wineries, we will probably be taking those first,” said Trainer.

The downtown community market is planning on allowing more liquor vendors.

Milton said they will be setting aside the 400 block of Main Street where they will mix farm vendors and four or five winery associations.

“It is going to be up to them to sit with their members and they are going to come up with a schedule amongst themselves, only allowing one or two of their wineries in their booth each week,” said Milton.

Milton is looking forward to expanding the offerings at the community market.

“Anything that is new is kind of fun and challenging, all at the same time,” she said.