White Rock Farmers' Market to sell alcohol

Visitors to the White Rock Farmers
Visitors to the White Rock Farmers' Market will be able to pick up a bottle of wine along with fresh produce due to changes in the provincial liquor laws.
— image credit: File photo

There could be some new thirst quenchers at the White Rock Farmers’ Market this summer, as the B.C. government loosens laws regarding alcohol sales.

Beer, wine and spirit sales at farmers’ markets in the province are among the alcohol regulation changes approved by the B.C. government last week.

The changes to policy regarding farmers’ markets are effective this spring.

Now it will be up to the individual markets to determine what, if any, products will be featured at their respective sites.

White Rock Farmers’ Market manager Helen Fathers, who is also a director for the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets as well as a White Rock councillor, said the BCAFM is excited about the changes.

“From our perspective, it’s fantastic,” she said. “It (will be) so great to be able to come to the market and get your cheese, milk, vegetables, butter and a bottle of wine. It’s definitely a selling point for the market.”

Fathers said the response from established vendors has been positive, as most everyone sees the addition of alcohol products as a benefit to the market as a whole.

The only concern raised is that of liability, regarding such issues as selling to minors. Fathers said that in accordance with the approved new regulations, all liabilities regarding policing the sales of liquor at farmers’ markets would fall into the hands of individual retailers.

“In conversations with the liquor board, the licensee – i.e. the brewery or the winery – it’s their license, so even though it’s an outdoor space, it’s like their virtual store, so it would be their responsibility,” she said, adding that the White Rock Farmers’ Market will only be entertaining applications for wine and beer vendors.

While numbers have yet to be cemented, Fathers said there is no threat of the market becoming a glorified liquor store. The idea is to complement current vendors, not change the landscape of the market. There will be a mandated cap set by the provincial government – likely based on a percentage of total vendors. As for the White Rock market, there simply isn’t enough space available to be overwhelmed by alcohol-primary vendors.

“We are at about 75 (vendors) right now, on a really great day, and I would say with a little bit of juggling I might be able to go to 85 vendors, but even at that, I would start to get a bit panicky,” she said. “The mindset we have is that it is going to be in addition to what we already have.”

Fathers said the only hurdle now is setting up local policies. She is confident the market will have everything in place and shoppers will be able to pick up some vino with their fresh veg at the local market this summer.

Other changes to provincial liquor policy announced Thursday included allowing residents to buy B.C. wine from grocery stores by early next year, permitting “happy hour” drink discounts at licensed businesses and removing fence requirements for beer gardens at approved outdoor festivals.

The government plans to maintain its cap on the number of liquor stores, with 670 private stores now in operation.

– with files from Tom Fletcher



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