B.C.’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch has denied an application to move the Three Gables Liquor Store out of Penticton’s downtown core.
It was one of two relocation applications from private liquor store owners in this city that the agency has ruled on this year. The other, which was approved, cleared the way for the Cherry Lane Liquor Store to possibly move out of its stand-alone building and into the mall.
In 2010, the LCLB adopted a new policy that prevents private liquor retailers from relocating to within one kilometre, as the crow flies, of a competitor, except under a narrow set of conditions. Those conditions include redevelopment of a retailer’s leased location or the presence of a large barrier between the proposed site and those of rivals.
Licensees wishing to relocate on such grounds must apply to the LCLB for discretion. Written decisions on the two Penticton relocations, signed by deputy general manager Cheryl Caldwell, were released under freedom of information legislation.
According to the June 2012 decision on Three Gables, licensee Harbans Randhawa argued that moving from 360 Martin St. to a new building at the corner of Fairview Road and Calgary Avenue would have reduced market saturation in the downtown core.
The applicant also argued that although the new location would be just 0.94 kilometres from its nearest private-sector rival, the Government Street Liquor Store, a sufficient barrier is provided by Main Street to preserve each shop’s market share.
Randhawa noted that Three Gables’ current home is no longer cost effective to renovate and needs to be torn down, and that the move would allow her to operate in a new building in which she has a financial interest.
Caldwell wrote that the arguments were “not sufficiently distinct to warrant an exercise of discretion.”
She ruled that Main Street does not constitute a natural barrier, because it features “ample intersections and crossings,” and further, the desire to move to a new building “is not unique as many licensees would like to move to more attractive locations.”
Mal Randhawa, who spoke on Harbans’ behalf, said they are considering appealing the decision in court.
The LCLB’s “main concern is I’m going to be affecting the viability and market certainty of Government Street Liquor Store. Does that really make sense?” Mal said.
“They are protecting one store in Penticton, and they are not really concerned about the certainty and the viability of Three Gables and Clancy’s (Liquor Store) that are sitting face to face” on Martin Street.
Three Gables’ application was vigorously opposed by some competitors, including the owner of the Government Street Liquor Store, who started a petition this spring to block it.
Meanwhile, the LCLB accepted Cherry Lane Liquor Store’s argument that its landlord’s desire to redevelop its current, stand-alone home on one corner of the mall’s parking lot warrants an exception to the one-kilometre buffer rule.
According to the January 2012 decision, the store could be forced to move inside the mall because the landlord wishes to convert its current location into a gas station with convenience store. The liquor store’s new home would then be constructed from unwanted space currently occupied by Save-On-Foods.
While Caldwell wrote that another private liquor retailer, Barley Mill Cold Beer and Wine Store, is just 0.62 kilometres away, she ruled that the two businesses already operate in close quarters, so moving Cherry Lane Liquor Store a “minimal distance” into the mall “would not increase market concentration in the area.”
Cherry Lane Liquor Store owner Bill Irvine said he couldn’t comment on a possible move because he’s still in negotiations with mall management.
The liquor store is partially hidden from view by the now-closed Save-On-Foods gas bar, which was described as “problematic” by Gary Leaman, general manager of Cherry Lane shopping centre.
Leaman said he is still studying options for that corner of the mall property, including removing the gas bar entirely or rebuilding with a proper convenience store, but, “We don’t have a definitive plan.”