PENTICTON - Penticton City Council moved to support and protect local wine markets with new legislation to deal with liquor in grocery stores.
Council looked at the matter at their regular meeting Monday, Feb. 15, opting to enhance a staff recommendation to restrict grocery store sales to 100 per cent B.C. wines and imposing a one-kilometre separation rule for all liquor retailers in the city.
Rob Ingram, a representative of the Winery Coalition, urged a cautious approach by council, saying if liquor sales get into grocery stores, it would be a 'game changer' for the industry,
Kim Pullen, another Winery Coalition representative, argued when liquor moves into large grocery stores, the large grocery stores and large wineries dominate the market and eventually dictate the terms by which wine is sold.
“Small wineries cannot compete on price point. It’s an impossibility,” he said, adding the wines which will sell in grocery stores will be based on price point. “It will not be small wineries, it will be large wineries that have the marketing muscle and the ability to price their wine at the lowest point.”
Penticton Planning Manager Blake Laven told council his research agreed with Pullen’s comments, noting whenever wine was introduced to grocery stores in other jurisdictions, it completely changed the way wine was sold.
“We have heard concerns about the new regulations — initially you would think it would be great for the wineries, because it opens up all these new sales avenues, but there is a lot of fear and anxiety. Once the door is open, how do you close it? Will this single move satiate public demand for alcohol in grocery stores? I think the concerns from the wineries, from the local producers are completely valid,” Laven said.
He also noted the province’s issuing of a limited number of licenses for grocery stores would result in a growing inequity amongst grocery stores in the province between those able to get a license and those that weren’t.
Coun. Campbell Watt noted Penticton had a unique position in the province as the centre of wine country.
“With no disrespect intended for other communities who have chosen or not chosen to implement their one-kilometre rule, we are different than they are. This is to us, an attraction and a livelihood for many people, and I will strongly support the one-kilometre rule,” he said.
The implementation of the one-kilometre rule was also tied to a second recommendation by staff, which asked for a zoning bylaw regulating liquor sales in grocery stores to limit stores to only selling B.C. wines, a move that will require a public hearing.
The recommendation will come before council again in early March and will be followed by a public hearing on March 21.
On Jan. 12, Overwaitea Food Group Director Steve Moriarty announced company plans to have wine sales in the Penticton Save on Foods store by year end.
However, once the one-kilometre rule is in place, Save on Foods will not be able to implement their plan to sell wine out of the Cherry Lane location because of its proximity to the Cherry Lane Liquor Store.
Council mentioned the issue, with Mayor Andrew Jakubeit noting he didn’t think it would be realistic for the grocery chain to renovate the Cherry Lane store within the 30 days prior to the legislation taking effect.
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