A proposal to allow liquor sales in grocery stores in British Columbia has been backed by John Yap, parliamentary secretary for liquor reform.
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At a news conference Thursday, the Liberal MLA said he has recommended to the government that liquor be sold in grocery stores, but not convenience stores.
The announcement comes after 75 per cent of people who submitted comments to the liquor policy review consultation website, which launched in September, endorsed the idea.
Yap submitted his final report, based on the review consultation process, to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton on Monday.
"During the B.C. liquor policy review, I heard loud and clear that today's retail model has not kept pace with consumer expectations," said Yap in a news release.
"British Columbians lead busy lives and my final report makes several recommendations that will bring greater convenience to citizens, including moving to a model that will allow shoppers to pick up a bottle of wine or six-pack with their groceries."
Yap spent time between August and October meeting with industry groups and others in the liquor business to get input for his report.
The report makes more than 70 recommendations on modernizing B.C.'s liquor laws, including a phased-in approach to selling liquor in grocery stores, while keeping liquor and food sales separate.
Yap also endorses maintaining a cap on the number of liquor retail outlets in the province.
While the government considers his recommendations, Yap said he will continue in his role to help ensure any new laws "meet the spirit of his intentions and what he learned from his consultations."
Licensees oppose recommendation
The Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C. is opposed to liquor sales in grocery stores, saying it could hurt existing beer and wine stores and increase access to alcohol for minors.
In a press release issued after Yap's news conference, executive director Ian Baillie said his recommendations come with risks.
"These risks include risks to government revenues from alcohol sales, risks to the jobs and financial investment in B.C. from small businesses, and risks in terms of controlling access to alcohol for minors," said Baillie.
He also said the current model for liquor sales is already convenient for consumers.
"There are very few places around the province you will not find a liquor store already located within 100 metres of a grocery store, and having a separate liquor checkout inside a grocery store will not improve convenience."
Baillie also said he was disappointed with Yap's recommendations, adding they lacked detail and offer no guarantee people won't end up paying more for alcohol.
The B.C. government said Yap's report will be released publicly, partially over the coming weeks and in its entirety in the New Year, when it is expected that the government will make a final decision on any new liquor laws.