Friday, August 22, 2014

one stop shopping

when will beer be coming to the shelves of british columbia's grocery stores?
that is the question i was tasked with answering for the cbc local tv news yesterday

the answer in a nutshell:  not any time soon

the pessimistic addendum:  if at all

oh, i'm sure the legislation will be written in the spring like the liberals have promised
i'm just not sure that it will be written in such a manner as to be practicable

background - facts (and my opinionated commentary):
- the liberal government held meetings and welcomed feedback from the community about revising the province's liquor laws (listening attentively to health and safety concerns and big business concerns, and not so attentively to stakeholders and beer advocates)
- parliamentary secretary john yap wrote a list of recommendations and delivered it to attorney general susan anton on november 25, 2013, amid a media flurry (giving the ag a couple of months to review the report before it goes public - gotta give their spin doctors time to make a silk purse out of it)
- the report went public on january 31, 2014.  it contains 73 recommended revisions, 4 of which concern selling beer, wine and spirits in grocery stores.  apparently this is the one revision most supported by british columbians
- the government accepted all 73 recomendations in the liquor policy review report
- 14 of the 73 recommendations were implemented between april 28 and june 21 (fairly equally divided between actual policy changes and housekeeping matters)
- amendments related to grocery stores were introduced in march 2014, with an anticipated delivery date of spring 2015 (in keeping with the mandate of "quick" implementation)

- in 2012 a moratorium on new liquor store licences was put in place until 2022
- there are 670 private liquor store (LRS) licences in the province
- there are 195 government liquor stores in the province
- there are 221 rural agency locations which serve communities without a government or private liquor store.  they sell bottles of beer, wine and spirits alongside food, household supplies, newspapers etc.

- manitoba and nova scotia currently allow government liquor stores to operate in grocery stores, with separate cash registers and staffed by liquor authority employees.  manitoba currently has 2 such stores, with 3 more in the works.  nova scotia has 35
- quebec allows corner stores to sell domestic and imported beer and wine

what the grocery store recommendations are:

19. The Province should develop and implement a retail model that meets consumer demands for more convenience by permitting the sale of liquor in grocery stores. Government should continue to restrict the total number of retail outlets and require separation of grocery products and liquor. This
reflects the views of health and safety advocates and the acknowledged safety benefits of restricting minors’ access to liquor.

20.  Introducing liquor in grocery stores should be phased in, giving public and private liquor stores time to adjust to the new retail model.

21.  In consultation with industry, government should develop a policy that standardizes the types of non-liquor products that can be sold in liquor retail outlets.

22.  As a grocery model is developed, government should look at consistency in operating hours for licensed, rural agency and manufacturer retail stores.
 
grocery store eligibility (from march 6, 2014 gov't fact sheet):
- private and government stores may relocate within stores primarily engaged in the grocery business
- convenience stores will not be eligible to have a liquor store
- grocery store eligibility will continue to be developed
- two part model for liquor sales in grocery stores: liquor store within a grocery store must be a store within a store with a controlled access point and separate till.  a liquor store may also be immediately adjacent to an eligible grocery store with a connecting entrance for shoppers
- all types of liquor may be sold
- relocation criteria of remaining in the same municipality or within 5 km of the former location will be repealed
- relocation criteria prohibiting relocation of a private store to withine 1 km of an existing private store will be maintained, and beginning in 2015 this will begin to apply to government stores as well

salient points:
- the number of retail licences will remain the same
- consistency in operating hours of grocery stores, all licensees and tasting rooms
- no ability to relocate within 1 km of existing licensee
- store within a store model

collecting my thoughts:
the legislation is the better part of a year away in being released
once it is, they intend to phase it in
no new licences will be issued, so only current licensees can move their businesses into or adjacent to grocery stores
even if grocery stores and licensees are in talks currently, we wouldn't see beer in grocery stores for at least a year

but who is going to be able to even take advantage of the legislation?
some lucky grocery store owner who also already owns a licence and is conveniently not located within a kilometre of another licensee?
i wouldn't even know how to go about doing the math on that one, but it sure seems like a small pool

is the government looking to move their stores into grocery stores?
that could save them a whole lot on overhead...
would you be happy with your government store moving?
48% of the booze money spent in stores in bc is in the government stores, which leads me to believe that a whole lot of people are shopping in them
assuming all these people also shop at big grocery stores and have no brand loyalty to theirs, maybe they'll be very happy to have one stop shopping
but those are quite a few assumptions...
i could see the government stores working in a grocery store, with their more limited stock
and keep the private stores independant so they can carry a broader base of products and the specialty orders that beer geeks have come to worship them for

i prefer smaller shops, and they simply would not be able to afford to have a liquor store within them, private or government
maybe they could partner with a licensee who wanted to move
and being adjacent to one would be manageable for a small store, but that would involve a whole lot of serendipity around the location
it would be less convenient for me if, for example, my government liquor store on commercial drive moved into the safeway at broadway and commercial
it would also be less convenient for me if liberty wines, the private liquor store on the drive, moved into the safeway
there is currently a private store at toby's, which is well within 1 km of safeway, so i'm not sure either of those moves would be allowed anyway (what's a km?  about 10 blocks? so the gov't store and liberty would be just over a km away from toby's currently... liberty and the gov't store are much closer together than a km, which i guess must have been acceptable at one point)

my poor brain hurts just trying to imagine how it is all going to work out, and i haven't even started to imagine which grocery stores around are actually large enough to find space to absorb a liquor store into themselves

when i said that i would like to see booze for sale in grocery stores this was not at all the model i was envisioning
i was picturing american grocery stores, of all sizes, that include a beer and wine aisle
where cashiers check id and the system seems to work just fine
issuing a new category of grocery store licences would be easy enough to do
you'd have the convenience of picking up a bottle or two with your groceries
and there would still be gov't and private stores that stock a larger selection

like they have with happy hours, i think the governement has missed the point of what beer drinkers in british columbia wanted out of grocery stores selling liquor
i am interested to see how it pans out
but my breath is not being held for it to improve my life even one iota
or to happen before this time next year
 


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