Liquor store association wants quick end to Alberta-B.C. trade war

The Alberta Liquor Store Association is hoping for a quick resolution to the trade war that’s now preventing businesses from bringing in new bottles of B.C. wine.

Local stores say supply of B.C. wines is sufficient to last a month, if not more

Alberta stores carrying B.C. wines may see a five to eight per cent drop in profits because of the ban, the Alberta Liquor Store Association says.

The Alberta Liquor Store Association is hoping for a quick resolution to the trade war that's now preventing businesses from bringing in new bottles of B.C. wine.  

"We would like it to end as quickly as possible," ALSA president Ivonne Martinez told CBC News Wednesday.

There's been a mixed reaction from several of the ALSA's 600 members since Premier Rachel Notley announced a ban on new imports of B.C. wine Tuesday, Martinez said.

She said some members — chain and independent operators — are a little perplexed by the move. 

"[They're] just not understanding why we're impacted by this when it's supposed to be a pipeline issue," she said.

Alberta Liquor Store Association president Ivonne Martinez said many of the association's 600 member stores were surprised by the ban on B.C. wines. (CBC)
 "It's definitely not something we were expecting nor wanted." 

Stores carrying B.C. wines can expect a five to eight per cent drop in profits when the supply runs out, she added, which is expected to happen in about a month.

Approximately 160,000 cases of B.C. wine are left in Alberta warehouses, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said.      

Stores and restaurants can still sell the bottles they already have, but no new B.C. wines will be brought into Alberta until the ban is lifted, said AGLC spokesperson Michelle Hynes-Dawson.

Private importers buy on behalf of stores and restaurants, but all liquor sold in the province has to go through the AGLC. The AGLC acts like a middle-person and is responsible for regulating and storing liquor in its warehouses. 

Too early to tell

Employees at Vines Riverbend Wine Merchants in South Edmonton don't seem worried about the wine supply in the short- to medium-term.

"There's lots of wine in the store here already," Stephen Richmond, manager and sommelier, said.

The boutique shop displays its wines according to region, with 95 per cent of its Canadian wines coming from B.C.

The shop orders once a week from the distribution warehouse, and Richmond said they placed their usual order on Wednesday.

Manager and sommelier at Vines Riverbend Wine Merchants said the store has plenty of B.C. wines to last more than a month. (CBC)

Some customers said they will support the boycott and won't buy B.C. wines.

"We'll see which way that pans out in the next couple of weeks or months or so — indeed if it lasts that long."

Bright side to the ban

In addition to wines from B.C., Alberta liquor stores have access to some 22,500 wine products from around the world, the AGLC said. 

Martinez said the alternative options may be the bright side to the ban, giving Albertans an opportunity to try other products.

"We're here to showcase as many products as we can," she said. "There's many fabulous products out there right now that perhaps Albertans haven't had a chance to look at." 

Richmond also sees the more positive side of the boycott. 
A vineyard on Vancouver Island, one of hundreds of wineries in B.C. (Natasha Riebe)

"If people decide they don't want to buy B.C. wines, there's lots of choice everywhere else," he said.

He said whether wine connoisseurs branch out to other regional labels or support the ban on B.C. wines, it will help keep a healthy stock in the store.

"Then those wines already in the system are going to last even longer."

Richmond estimates between the in-store stock and that in the warehouse, his store will have enough B.C. wine to keep niche consumers happy for one to three months. 

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.