British Columbia

Booze sales in Vancouver grocery stores move one step closer to reality

Vancouver City Council has voted against allowing B.C. VQA wines to be stocked on regular grocer shelves, opting instead for the more restrictive "store-in-store" model for in-store alcohol sales.

City council votes to allow more restrictive store-in-store model over wine-on-shelf option

Store-in-store liquor stores could be coming to Vancouver soon. (CBC)

Vancouver City Council has voted against allowing B.C. VQA wines to be stocked on regular grocer shelves, opting instead for the more restrictive "store-in-store" model for in-store alcohol sales.

The store-in-store model requires grocers to create a separated liquor area with its own cashier.

Grocery stores must be at least 10,000 square feet in size and at least one kilometre away from any other liquor retailer to be considered candidates for a store-in-store, according to B.C. liquor control regulations.

Vancouver City Council has voted against the wine-on-shelf option which would allow only B.C. wines to be stocked on regular grocery store shelves. (CBC)

Choices Market spokesperson Tyler Romano says none of his company's five Vancouver stores meet the guidelines for selling liquor.

He calls the restrictions too prohibitive. 

"To me it's like one step forward two steps back," said Romano.

"First you have to be big enough to put in a store-in-store. And then on top of that you have to be away from a liquor store, which are all over the place with licenses these days. And then you have to get a liquor licence as well, which is a whole other problem.

'Wine down the aisle makes sense'

"The wine down the aisles, that's what makes sense ... For smaller stores like us and for customers it's the ultimate convenience, like what you find in Montreal."

A report from city staff notes there are currently only two areas of the city where a store-in-store liquor store could exist in compliance with all the restrictions, but it does mention 30 locations where existing liquor stores could relocate to within a grocery store.

Unlike the wine-on-shelf model, which was restricted to B.C. wine only, the store-in-store model allows the sale of all liquor, including beer, wine and spirits. 

The two models for allowing liquor sales into grocery stores were introduced in 2015 as part of the B.C. Liquor Policy Review.

Only 14 B.C. grocers selling wine

Currently there are 14 grocery stores in the province selling B.C. wine off the shelf, although the program is now being contested under a World Trade Organization enforcement action launched by the U.S. claiming unfair discrimination against American wines.

No grocery store in B.C. is currently operating a store-in-store liquor store.

The city report highlights significant health concerns of expanding alcohol sales, noting that when booze is more widely available and more convenient to buy, people drink more.

"Increased consumption — even at moderate levels — has been shown to have negative social and public health consequences," says the report.

now