A group of retail liquor store owners would like to see the City of Penticton create a bylaw to prevent liquor stores from opening up within a kilometre of each other.
The B.C. liquor distribution act already contains a similar provision, but that won’t apply to new licences being created to allow grocery stores to sell B.C. wines, according to Lee Keller of the Cherry Lane Liquor Store.
Keller, along with Jim Larocque from Fairview Liquor Store and Jeff Leonard from Government Street liquor store, painted a dire picture of the consequences of the province’s plan to licence select grocery stores.
Keller said it could affect not only the independent liquor stores, but wineries and the area’s burgeoning craft breweries and distilleries.
The problem, according to Keller, is that once grocery stores have B.C. wines on their shelves, other wine growing regions like California or Argentina could invoke international trade agreements to force their products on the shelves as well.
“These new licences will, in time, have beer in them. Again, NAFTA and GATT kick in and we have world beers in here and you have created a brand new liquor store,” said Keller.
In Keller’s scenario, it would fail to generate a larger market for local products and create more competition for existing stores.
“It could be right next door, in the parking lot, to a private store we have invested in. The competition is already tough so we are asking that the city of Penticton has a bylaw that says one-kilometre rule for all liquor retail stores,” said Keller.
Having a bylaw in place would give the city ammunition to deny support to a grocery store licence that would conflict with an existing outlet. Kamloops and Vancouver have already introduced their own bylaws.
At it’s worst, Keller said Penticton could lose nine small businesses, and about 90 full time jobs.
“We are only one little part of this, and there are other repercussions if the ball starts going downhill,” said Keller, explaining that local wineries could be affected by the loss of a distribution channel.
Ron Dyck, co-owner of The Cannery Brewing Company, would also like to see the city bring in the new bylaw — he’d rather see control of licencing allocations controlled by the city rather than the provincial government.
“I would suggest that would probably be the safest way to go,” said Dyck. “Really, no one understands what the implication of this is, but if you have the control, then in the City of Penticton, you can either say yes or no.”
Council didn’t make any decision this week, but decided to have staff investigate the issue. Jakubeit said they needed more clarity on the issue, and whether or not the city could legally create such a rule.
“Certainly we do have a boutique industry here and we need to be mindful of that,” said Jakubeit. “We’re a little different from some other regions in the province. We have 200 wineries within an hour.”