Allowing alcohol sales at grocery stores is one of 70 recommendations in a report submitted this week to the provincial justice minister by John Yap, the parliamentary secretary tasked with the review of liquor laws.
"It is evident to me that B.C.'s current liquor laws have not kept pace with modern consumers," Yap said Thursday.
"British Columbians lead busy lives and they are often hard-pressed for time so I'm recommending we have a more convenient option available to them so they're able to pick up a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer when they are shopping for their groceries."
Yap said he would support a model where the sales of liquor be separate from grocery sales in the store, making sure access to alcohol is still restricted for minors.
The recommended expansion does not extend to convenience stores, and Yap said his report also recommends B.C. continue a moratorium on the total number of liquor retail outlets in the province.
"Currently there are about 731 in total of licensed private liquor stores, that includes the licensed retail stores and the wine stores that are currently out there," Yap said.
"I'm recommending we keep the moratorium."
Big-box retailers like WalMart and Costco sell liquor in the United States, and Costco operates 11 liquor outlets adjacent to its warehouses in Alberta — separate, as per regulation.
"We embrace the opportunity to bring liquor sales to our Costco locations in British Columbia," Jim Andruski, the assistance vice-president of Costco in Western Canada, said in a written submission to the review panel.
"We are one of the largest liquor retailers in the U.S., and have significant investment and experience in bringing quality wines, beers, and spirits to our members at the best value."
But the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents private liquor retailers, told the review panel that allowing multinational chains to sell alcohol will put small businesses at risk.
And Ian Baillie, the executive director, said Thursday that the idea may initially sound good but poses a risk not just for the jobs generated by small businesses, but in terms of controlling alcohol sales to minors.
The current model is already convenient, he said.
"There are very few places around the province you will not find a liquor store already located within 100 metres of a grocery store, and having a separate liquor checkout inside a grocery store will not improve convenience," Baillie said in a statement.
The alliance launched a radio ad campaign against grocery store sales earlier this month.
Shane Simpson, the B.C. New Democrat's liquor and gaming critic, said he'd like to see the evidence that Yap claims supports his recommendations.
"We're doing this kind of dance of the seven veils with John Yap releasing this one (recommendation) and saying this is a really good idea and I'll bring my 70 other recommendations out sometime in the spring or in January," Simpson said.
"The reality is they've got to provide some substance behind this as to what the impacts are."
Yap did not release details of the dozens of other recommendations, but said the full report will be released publicly after cabinet has had a chance for review.
Legislation is expected to be table next spring.
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