MLA backs booze in B.C. grocery stores

Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap announces his support for alcohol sales in grocery stores in Vancouver Thursday. - B.C. government photo
Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap announces his support for alcohol sales in grocery stores in Vancouver Thursday.
— image credit: B.C. government photo

The MLA in charge of the B.C. government's liquor policy review is recommending alcohol sales within grocery stores, using the "store within a store" model in place in other provinces.

Richmond Steveston MLA John Yap announced three of his recommendations Thursday, including the idea that a separate staffed area should handle alcohol sales. He also called for no increase to the 731 private store licences that are active now, and no sales in convenience stores other than those already designated as rural agency stores.

Yap's full report has more than 70 recommendations, but it won't be released until the new year after cabinet has considered it. Liquor in grocery stores was by far the most popular topic during his public consultation, which is why only those recommendations are being made public now, he said.

NDP liquor and gaming critic Shane Simpson said Yap has promoted the popular idea repeatedly, and Thursday's announcement appears "cobbled together" to distract attention from BC Hydro rate hikes and B.C.'s dismal job creation performance than it is about liquor sales.

"It's been released with no supporting evidence as to how you do this," Simpson said. "Who gets these stores? If there's really a moratorium on new licences, does this mean that somebody who has a 10,000 square foot private store today is going to be told you have to give that up to get 1,000 square feet in a Safeway? I don't think that's going to happen."

The Alliance of Beverage Licensees, representing private liquor stores, questioned Yap's assertion that the change would create jobs and increase convenience.

"There are very few places around the province you will not find a liquor store already located within 100 metres of a grocery store, and having a separate liquor checkout inside a grocery store will not improve convenience," said Ian Baillie, executive director of the alliance.

The alliance is running a radio ad campaign saying its 10,000 employees' jobs are at risk, and putting alcohol in grocery stores increases the chance that young people can obtain booze.


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