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BC Liquor law changes impact Port Alberni

The city will have to flex its bylaw muscles if it hopes to have any say or influence over the impact of new provincial liquor laws, city planner Scott Smith said.

Smith gave councillors an overview of the new laws at their June 23 meeting.

Shoppers can now buy beer and wine from farmers’ markets, Smith said.

Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton announced the changes on June 21. Other changes already announced previously, will also see beer and wine sales in grocery stores permitted sometime in 2015.

Once that comes into effect, liquor, beer and wine will only be permitted using a “store-within-a-store” model, Smith said. The province isn’t issuing any new liquor licences therefore existing license holders would have to apply.

A second initiative could see craft beer and wines sold on store shelves alongside other grocery items.

The changes will also allow liquor manufacturers to sell their products at farmers’ markets if the markets approve and if it is meets local city bylaws.

According to Smith, the Spirit Square Farmers’ Market at Harbour Quay is considered public use under city zoning. But the zoning doesn’t distinguish between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

After the meeting, Smith used the example of Chase and Warren Wineries, saying that using the new laws the business could apply to the farmers’ market at Harbour Quay to sell wine.

Councillor Jack McLeman asked what kind of control or say the city had in the matter.

Smith replied that the city permits liquor stores under site-specific zoning bylaws, therefore any proposed relocation to a grocery store would trigger rezoning and a public process.

It’s not clear however if the zoning applies to the craft beer and wines slated to be sold off of store shelves, he said.

In his report to council, Smith said that the province also eliminated the five-kilometre restriction.

Under changes to come, liquor store owners will be able to move their licence anywhere in the province, as long as they are no closer than one kilometre to an existing liquor outlet. Previously, regulations limited them to moving within five kilometres of their current store.

The impact, Smith said, could see Port Alberni liquor outlets move to larger urban areas such as Vancouver or to tourist-rich areas such as Whistler.

“We’ll see some business people leave Port Alberni for more money,” Coun. Hira Chopra said.

According to a provincial government press release, 17 of the 73 recommendations from last year’s review have been implemented. The government plans to implement more than 50 by spring 2015.

A re-write of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act is also in the works.

EDITED: To reflect the plan to sell beer, wine and liquor in grocery stores won't be put into effect until sometime in 2015. Also that 17 of the 73 recommendations from the liquor law review have bee implemented.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

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