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Changes Coming to Liquor Wholesale in BC

The recent announcement that the government would sell off the wholesale distribution arm of the BCLDB raised many questions about the nature of the contemplated changes. Recent media interviews by Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for the LCLB and LDB, are beginning to provide some clues as to what is intended. It now seems apparent that the sale of the wholesale division will also include a restructuring of the wholesale pricing system in BC. At the present time, there are no real wholesale prices for liquor at all. The only wholesale discounts are given in reference to the full retail price that is fixed in government liquor stores and the discounts vary greatly depending upon license type. For example, bars/restaurants get 0% off the full government price, rural agency stores get 10%, LRS stores get 16%, VQA stores get 30% and independent wine stores get 30% (the last two categories can sell only wine). Minister Coleman has now stated three times in media interviews, including on CKNW this morning, that the province will eliminate the varying discounts and implement a "level playing field" for all businesses that sell liquor in the province including a single consistent wholesale price. It is not clear exactly how this will be implemented but Coleman did reference Alberta's system during his interview, which uses a more normal wholesale pricing structure coupled to a flat-tax on liquor which is imposed at the wholesale level (Alberta's system is still government controlled at the wholesale level).

Coleman also commented that the privatization of the warehousing and distribution system would not affect union jobs as it will be subject to successor rights, that there will be new liquor regulations dealing with movie theatres and special occasion licenses "within weeks", that he is undertaking a further modernization effort which he described as "tinkering" with the rules, and that he is absolutely not considering the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores.