03/07/2014 10:26 EST | Updated 05/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Beer and wine stores to close in small B.C. towns, warns NDP

Changes to B.C. liquor laws that will allow grocery stores to sell alcohol could mean smaller communities across the province could lose their beer and wine stores, the NDP is warning.

On Thursday the government announced by early 2015 grocery stores that want to sell beer, wine and liquor, will be able buy an existing beer and wine store licence and transfer it anywhere in B.C.

Previously, any move was limited to within five kilometres of the original license site.

NDP liquor control critic Shane Simpson says he's concern the government has not properly studied the effects of the changes it introduced yesterday.

"If I own a small store that's doing okay in Quesnel and somebody comes along and says, 'I want to buy your license and move it to Vancouver or Surrey where there's a big market and here's a few hundred thousand dollars,' all of a sudden that store is closed in Quesnel and there's one less place to get your case of beer."

Any grocery stores that buy the licences will still need separate cashiers for the liquor sales, but Simpson notes there are 670 beer and wine store licenses in B.C. and the government says it will not increase that number. .

He says the new rules will drive the prices of licences up beyond the reach of small-town operators.

"If you're going to be able to sell licenses and transfer them to other jurisdictions, what's that going to do to the price of those licenses?  I can just see people trying to buy those licenses in small communities and move them to big populated areas where there's a huge market and they really have a huge value."