On March 6th, the BC Government released further details of its ongoing reforms to BC liquor laws including more specific information on grocery store liquor sales and a timeline for 15 of the 73 reforms that are being implemented as a result of the liquor policy review. The press release is here: BC Outlines Balanced Plan for Grocery Store Liquor Sales. In addition, amendments were introduced in the legislature that will implement some of the proposed changes: Bill 15, Liquor Control and Licensing Amendment Act 2014.
Highlights of the changes include:
- Two ways to sell liquor in grocery stores: the first is a "store within a store" model where alcohol will be sold in a segregated area of the grocery store with its own cashier, and the second is the ability to obtain one of a limited number of new licenses that will permit the sale of BC VQA wines on regular grocery store shelves.
- Work continues on the definition of "grocery store". However, it will not include "convenience stores". In addition, the current moratorium on the issuance of new licenses will be maintained.
- The 1 km distance separation rule for liquor retailers will be maintained (and expanded to include all liquor stores). The 5 km maximum relocation rule for retailers will be eliminated.
- Significantly, the government has also announced that BC's wholesale pricing structure for liquor will be revised and that all retailers, both government and private, will pay the same wholesale price for liquor products (apparently, the current intention is that restaurants/hotels/bars will not be included in this policy).
A timeline is set out in the press release for 15 of the liquor policy review changes which indicates that some of the announced changes will be implemented in "Spring/Summer 2014" (e.g. farmers' market sales, festival sales, happy hour, off-site storage for licensees, intra-transfer of liquor), others will be implemented in "Fall 2014" (e.g. education initiatives, serving it right changes, expansion of manufacturer sales to include additional products) and some in "Winter 2015" (e.g. grocery store liquor sales). In addition, a complete re-write of the existing licensing statute will be done and a new Act will be introduced in "spring 2015".