Too much booze can be unhealthy, even dangerous.
Statistics on the B.C. government website about its liquor policy review show alcohol is the main cause of health problems after tobacco, noting 30 per cent of people who pay late-night visits to the hospital emergency room report alcohol consumption in the six hours prior.
And we don’t need statistics to show how too much alcohol can fuel tragedy; case in point is this week’s murder trial of Torbin Alec, who pleaded guilty Thursday to the lesser charge or manslaughter for the death of his good friend.
Despite the evidence, there is a public thirst for liquor sales at grocery stores, with 80 per cent of liquor review respondents citing that as a top priority.
A graphic on the website devoted to the review shows there were 76,225 site visits with 4,364 comments and 65 stakeholder meetings.
People like the idea of being able to grab a bottle of wine down one aisle and the baguette and brie down another.
Reaction was predictable from some. A spokesman with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents pubs, bars and private liquor stores around B.C., said “selling alcohol where families go to buy their bread and milk will unnecessarily increase the access to liquor for our young people.”
I wonder if the alliance expressed the same concerns in 2009 when private liquor stores were allowed in B.C.
Let’s be realistic — like the BCGEU, which also opposes selling liquor in grocery stores — the alliance is looking out for member interests. They don’t want to see their market share eroded by competition offering more convenience.
Nor would allowing liquor sales at grocery stores be met with catastrophe, as the local MADD chapter suggested.
Liquor is already sold in rural convenience stores all over B.C. In my old neighbourhood, we had a gas station selling booze 10 minutes one way, another 10 minutes the other and another 10 minutes past that.
Certainly city dwellers could handle the responsibility of the same convenience as their country cousins.
The notion that liquor vendors in grocery stores — which would have to operate as a separate area within the store with separate staff and till — would be any less responsible than those currently selling alcohol just doesn’t wash.
Who would want to risk losing his or her licence or incurring a $7,500 fine for selling to underage youths?
Plus the province says it will maintain a cap on the current number of licences — so same rules, same penalties, same number of sellers. The only difference is location.
In other words, the opponents’ case that such a change will lead to more public health and safety issues is weak.
More to the point, how much more convenience do we need? There is already a liquor vendor within walking distance of nearly every grocery store in town.
If anything, opponents should be campaigning on the idea that with rising obesity, it’s good for our health to have to walk that extra half block for our bottle of calorie-laden booze.
It’s time for a review — the last one was in 1999 — and great that public input is being included.
But it’s disappointing that the main idea put forth so far touts something so unnecessary.