Opinion

Editorial — A new era for liquor in B.C.

Liquor sales in retail stores are one step closer, with the provincial government unveiling some details about the standalone outlets which can be located within existing grocery stores.

Liquor will not be sold in corner or convenience stores, which removes one of the concerns of those who opposed selling liquor beyond the existing sales network.  Most convenience stores simply do not have the staff to oversee that the sales of such products conform to the desire to keep them out of the hands of minors.

While it is true that such stores sell tobacco products, that is something they have always done, and they are being pushed much harder to ensure that tobacco products are not sold to minors. Still, infractions do occur.

Those who currently hold private liquor store licences, which generally go to those with pub licences, will be able to move their licences (presumably via sale or lease)  into grocery stores. The current restriction that licences must be for businesses within a five-kilometre limit will be lifted. Wisely, the government recognizes that this move gives an economic benefit to licence holders, and wants them to pay a transfer fee.

The standalone stores will be in larger grocery stores, and within the same building — not in standalone buildings, as is the case in Alberta. This makes a lot of sense. Customers will be able to put groceries and liquor in their carts, but must pay for their liquor in designated checkout lines.

This move brings an era of civility to liquor sales that we haven’t seen before in B.C. It wasn’t that long ago that people had to go into government liquor stores, ask for the product they wanted, and receive it in a brown paper bag, out of sight of prying eyes. Then we got government stores in shopping malls, and then we went to a mix of private and government liquor stores.

It will be wonderful to be able to pair liquor, particularly wine and beer, with food and get some expert advice on those pairings within stores, as is the case at some of the best U.S. grocery stores.

One step towards promoting B.C.-made beer, wine and spirits it to allow for point-of-sale demonstrating, tastings and advice. While this does take place in liquor stores now, it can  be expanded greatly within the confines of a larger grocery store selling a wide variety of products.

Sales of liquor in grocery stores begin in 2015. B.C. is entering an exciting era of treating liquor as a product to be fully enjoyed with meals and in social settings, in moderation.

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