Wednesday April 16, 2014

Six-packs in food stores a mirage

B.C.’s promised liquor reform thus far looks flashy but promises little in substance.

Parliamentary secretary for B.C. Liquor Policy Review, John Yap announced this week that public comments on the review have overwhelmingly shown appetite for beer and wine sold in grocery stores.

This, however, is a mirage of cheap alcohol and convenience. The first fact is Yap is not claiming that booze will get cheaper. The government needs the nearly $1 billion a year in revenues and won’t take any cut.

And the convenience appears to be a store-within-a-store concept — not the promise of grabbing a six pack with a dozen eggs and walking to the cashier.

Not only does alcohol sales bring a lot of money to the public purse, there are profits to B.C.’s private retailers and family supporting wages to government liquor store employees at stake.

Are those stakeholders at risk from a change in rules?

It seems that government will not issue any more retailing licences, something that should protect entrepreneurs who’ve invested in private liquor stores. They may get bought out if the numbers pencil out.

And Yap has also said it might be government itself that operates a liquor store inside a grocery store, promising more jobs within B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

With current proliferation of private stores, along with a smattering of government outlets, it’s hardly difficult to get alcohol. And we’ll never see the prices for beer and wine like those across the line because taxes and markup in the United States on alcohol are a fraction of levies here.

B.C. Liquor Distribution Board is one of the word’s largest buyers, demanding discounts and offering selection. B.C.’s hybrid system of private liquor stores, liquor agencies inside rural general stores as well as government outlets works.

Putting a store-within-a-store appears to be change for the sake of it.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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