More government liquor stores may sell cold beer and wine

Latest policy reform idea from province rankles private store owners

A review of liquor policy is underway in B.C. that could trigger further reforms.

Another liquor policy reform being eyed by the province would allow more government liquor stores to sell cold beer and wine, which has long been the domain of private stores.

Ten government stores already sell some refrigerated products but the province will now test the waters for a major expansion.

Walk-in beer and wine “cold rooms” will open at the end of September at three stores in Burnaby, Duncan and Salmon Arm.

That’s the first stage of a pilot project that will add four more walk-in beer and wine refrigeration coolers at existing stores in Oliver, Osoyoos, Mill Bay and Grand Forks later in the fall.

The province wants feedback on the idea as part of its already-launched Liquor Policy Review, along with several other proposals for reform.

The concept may be in for a rough ride from the organization representing private liquor stores.

The Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C. called the move a surprise and said it would throw private outlets and government stores into more direct competition.

John Yap, the parliamentary secretary for the liquor policy review, said all other Canadian provinces offer refrigeration in most, if not all, of their government liquor stores.

“This is another area where we think B.C. is lagging behind other jurisdictions,” Yap said.

“Refrigeration units seem to be very popular with customers, but the public and industry will now have the opportunity to give us feedback on whether this is something they would like to see on a larger scale around the province.”

Other potential reforms being explored include licensing farmers’ markets and spas to serve alcohol and letting under-aged children have lunch at a pub with their parents during the day.

Public consultations run until Oct. 31 and a website for comments is to launch next month.

Don’t expect booze to get cheaper under any future reforms. The province aims to at least maintain if not increase its revenue.

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