THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Consumers won’t actually see much difference in costs following the new B.C. liquor laws that took effect today, according to one liquor merchant.
Fred Vassilaki, the manager of Last Call Liquor Mart in Penticton, says changes to the province’s liquor laws went into effect on April 1 but they won’t have a huge impact on the consumer in the long run.
“They’ve changed the math on my invoice, that part I actually like. They’ve just cleaned up the billing, as far as I’m concerned,” he says.
Vassilaki doesn’t believe prices have actually been lowered for alcohol, noting some distributors have lowered prices, others have maintained prices, and still others have raised prices as of April 1.
“The government hasn’t made liquor cheaper, they’ve just pulled the taxes out of the price of the alcohol, and now just have that price on their shelf,” Vassilaki says, adding many people don’t realize liquor taxes are not the same as GST and PST. “You’re actually paying 15 per cent taxes for alcohol, not 12 per cent.”
Vassilaki, as a liquor retailer, says he doesn’t understand why the government felt it had to pull the taxes out, noting the present system has been in place for 40 years. The only other product sold with taxes included is gasoline, he adds.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money to do very little. They’ve spent months of meetings to decide to take taxes out of the price, something that didn’t need to be done, or something they should have come up with in 15 minutes,” he says.
Retail sales of alcohol in grocery stores could still be a ways off, Vassilaki thinks, due to the present rules in place regarding the size of the stores, percentage of food sales and distance from other liquor outlets. He also noted in most cities it was more convenient for consumers to purchase liquor from private outlets than it would be from grocery store. The 'store within a store' model proposed for grocery store sales would also be more inconvenient, Vassilaki believes.
“I personally think it’s easier for any individual to drive up to any private liquor store in the city, walk in, grab your purchase and walk out, compared to finding a parking space at a grocery store, going in, going through the store, making a separate purchase. I don’t see the convenience,” he says.
Craft brewers are now able to sell at Farmer Markets as well, an idea heartily endorsed by Vassilaki.
“I think it’s a great idea, a great way to showcase local products."
Another change taking effect today will allow private liquor stores to utilize off-site storage, something they couldn’t do before.
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