British Columbia's 672 private liquor stores have done quite well under the Liberals, especially after many of the liquor laws were expanded. Times are changing and grocery stores may end up selling beer and wine, much to the chagrin of the liquor stores.
B.C.'s Prime Minister, Christy Clark has been listening to the people, as well as paying close attention to the polls. She just wants to get the right balance between public safety, public convenience and the promotion of B.C. products right before saying beer and wine can be sold in B.C. grocery stores.
At a news conference Wednesday in West Kelowna, Clark said she was well aware of public support for allowing the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores by a four-to-one margin, but pointed out the proposal still needed a little work.
"I'm concerned about the public safety aspect of that," she said. "We need to pay real close attention to that, at the same time we are making sure that B.C. products benefit from it, and health and safety is protected. But the public told us really clearly that they want convenience. We're trying to see if we can make that work."
Clark also said that while her Liberal government is reviewing the proposal, she admitted the laws needed modernization. Last month, John Yap, the parliamentary secretary, submitted a report to the Justice Ministry with 70 recommendations, including one in particular, the selling of beer and wine in grocery stores.
At the completion of the review by the Justice Ministry, it was stated that an overwhelming 75 percent of comments were in favor of having more convenient access to buying beer and wine. There were more than 3,587 private emails and letters, as well as over 4,000 blog comments, all in favor of the proposal.
Clark announced Wednesday that her government is in favor of 12 of the 70 recommendations, "including permitting winemakers, craft brewers and specialty distillers to sell their products at farmers' markets and secondary tasting rooms."
This news was not taken well by the private liquor store owners. Ian Baillie, head of the Association of Beverage Licensees of B.C. was quoted in November as saying, “The government needs to consider the impact of allowing large grocery chains to sell liquor on the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in income that are provided by the current system.”
Private liquor store owners are adamant that sales will drop significantly, putting many liquor stores out of business. But looking at Quebec and Alberta, who allow the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores, there has been no great upheaval. If anything, the privatization of liquor sales has led to more competitiveness, both in pricing and choices for the public.