B.C. liquor law changes to be reviewed after complaints from craft brewers

The provincial government is reviewing its liquor policy in light of complaints that recent changes have increased craft beer prices for consumers.

Province is set to review the changes this fall and may change pricing structure, again

B.C. craft beer brewers say the province's recent wholesale pricing changes have increased costs for consumers. (Tree Brewing)

The provincial government is reviewing its liquor policy in light of complaints that recent changes have increased craft beer prices for consumers.

B.C. MLA John Yap, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for liquor policy reform, will be leading the review this fall, which may result in even more pricing changes.

On April 1 the province implemented several revisions to its liquor policy, including the wholesale pricing structure for beer, wine and liquor sales.

So far one of the biggest complaints around the new pricing structure has come from craft brewers — many across the province say changes to beer pricing have driven up costs for consumers

"We're hearing from some in the craft brewery sector that there have been some challenges and we're listening," said Yap. 

According to the NDP, 90 per cent of beers at government liquor stores have increased in price since the province updated its wholesale distribution system on April 1.

"If the price of a six-pack of beer goes up 50 cents or a buck, people are price sensitive and people will look at other options," said NDP liquor critic David Eby. 

But even as critics have poured on the controversy, the demand isn't dampening: the government says craft beer sales at provincial liquor stores are up more than 50 per cent compared to a year ago.

Reviews of large-scale changes to policy are not unusual, and this is not the first time the government has revised this new policy based on feedback from industry.

In January, the province decided to drop part of the wholesale markup planned for higher-priced wines, following an outcry from retail vendors.

The suggestions industry gives the government during the next review may have an effect on pricing, but those policies are ultimately controlled by the Liquor Distribution Branch.

With files from Richard Zussman

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