Booze coming to B.C. grocery stores in 2015

Artist's rendering shows liquor store attached to a grocery store. Shoppers can put alcohol products in their grocery carts, but they will have to go through two cash registers.
— image credit: B.C. government photo

B.C. residents will be able to buy B.C. wine from grocery stores by early next year, with some stores connected to liquor stores that offer full selection including hard liquor.

The provincial government released its framework for a major overhaul of liquor policy Thursday. It proposes a small number of new licences for Vintners' Quality Alliance (VQA) wine sales from grocery store shelves, with future expansion to include B.C.-made craft beer under the same licences.

Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap said all alcohol sales will be rung through at separate cash registers, with staff trained in an expanded "Serving It Right" course to check identification and sobriety. Customers will be able to stock up on groceries and alcoholic beverages in the same shopping cart, whether from in-store B.C. wine or products from a connected liquor store.

Changes to take effect by this summer include licensing B.C. wine and beer sale and tasting at farmers' markets, permitting "happy hour" drink discounts at licensed businesses and removing the requirement for fenced beer gardens at approved outdoor festivals.

Yap said the government is adopting a recommendation from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall and other health officials to tie prices to alcohol content, in an effort to reduce over-consumption.

The government plans to maintain its cap on the number of liquor stores, with 670 private stores now in operation. Liquor stores are currently restricted to relocating no more than five km from their original location, but that restriction is being lifted so a licence can be sold or moved anywhere in the province.

Yap said that would allow either a government or private liquor store to relocate next to a grocery store.

Another major change in the works is to wholesale pricing from the government's monopoly Liquor Distribution Branch. Currently private stores pay a 16 per cent discount off the government store retail price.

Yap said the LDB will move to the same wholesale price for all stores, based on the value of each product, and retail prices will be set by a competitive market.

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