In an earlier post, I noted that there has been a minor controversy this summer regarding the use of Enomatic "wine tasting machines" in some private retail stores. I asked for clarification on this from the LCLB and I can now confirm the following:
- The use of Enomatic machines is permitted so long as the store is otherwise complying with the terms of its license in regard to consumer tastings. Store owners should check the terms of their license - but the terms and conditions for most licenses are here.
- For most stores, the most significant restriction will be that self-service on tastings is not permitted (in other words, customers cannot pour their own tastes) ... this will mean that they cannot operate the Enomatic machine themselves. Instead, as applicable, the agent or a store employee would have to operate the machine.
Some retailers have complained to me that the rules regarding tastings in LRS stores are overly restrictive particularly the requirements to dispose of any unfinished bottles at the end of the day (which defeats the purpose of the Enomatic machine). In this regard, the LCLB has told me that they are currently reviewing their policies in regards to tastings and they expect to "clarify" the policies in the near future. Hopefully, this will mean some modernization of the policies with clearer accommodation for new technology like the Enomatic.
Generally, it's my view that the current policies need to be updated - so long as there are safeguards to over-service, it's always a good thing if consumers can try wine before they buy it. In regards to limiting the amounts served, the Enomatic is actually a great tool because the machine measures pours much more accurately than people do and customers could be given a "smart card" that limits them to the exact amount permitted by the tasting policy. If it is any consolation to private retailers, I can attest that the rules for tastings in LDB stores are equally frustrating - a recent LDB memo on this subject has caused some agents to re-think how they will address in-store tastings in government stores.
Update: this story has now been covered by the Vancouver Sun: Another Bizarre BC Wine Law Dampens Competition