The B.C. government’s consultation on liquor reform has begun with a debate about allowing alcoholic beverage sales in grocery stores.
“Washington state is the model I favour,” a Lower Mainland resident wrote Monday on the B.C. government’s new consultation website. “No government involvement in retailing – period. Just enforce the legal drinking age.”
The B.C. government’s point man on liquor reform, Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, posted his own comments on the subject Monday. Yap warned that while opening up alcohol sales is a popular suggestion, “it certainly isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.”
Yap noted that beer, wine and spirits are already sold in rural grocery stores that are licensed because their service area isn’t big enough to warrant a government retail store. In urban areas, he questioned whether alcoholic beverages should be sold from convenience stores and gas stations, larger grocery stores, or big-box retailers.
“When this topic comes up in my meetings with health, safety and law-and-order advocates, the question will surely become that already we see 30 per cent of late-night attendees at a typical B.C. emergency department report alcohol consumption in the six hours prior to their injury or illness,” Yap said. “If we make it more available for the sake of convenience, will we see rates like this rise?”
The government is inviting public comments until Oct. 31 at the website. The site also lists submissions from health care, police and alcoholic beverage industry representatives.
The current review continues a remake of B.C. liquor policy that began in 2002, when cold beer and wine stores were allowed to sell spirits, and a 10-year moratorium on new private store licences was lifted.
When the consultation was launched in August, Yap said licenses for serving craft beer or local wine at farmers’ markets would be considered.
Pubs also want to allow under-aged children in with their parents for lunch, putting them on a level playing field with licensed restaurants.
Scenes like this one below are common in the United States, where beer, wine, and spirits are sold in many or most grocery or convenience stores. (Photo taken in New York City, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)