VERNON - Vernon council is not going to interfere with the sale of wine in grocery stores.
The city was asked to impose a rule to keep grocery stores selling B.C. wine one kilometre away from other liquor stores, but a majority of council has voted not to grant that request.
The Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents Kalamalka Wine and Spirits, Monashee’s Bar and Grill and Kal Sports Bar, encouraged council to adopt the one kilometre rule to restrict the number of liquor outlets and protect local business. The group says roughly 165 full and part-time jobs are supported by the liquor industry in Vernon.
A majority of council voted not to act on the alliance’s request for a one kilometre rule.
“It seems to me we ought not be in the business of interfering in the economy,” Coun. Scott Anderson said.
Private liquor stores are already subject to the one kilometre rule, and Coun. Catherine Lord, who along with Coun. Dalvir Nahal voted against the rest of council, wanted to see the same imposed for grocery stores.
“I think I would like to see a level playing field,” Lord said.
The new licenses being auctioned off by the province are for B.C. wine only, and do not allow beer or spirits to be sold in grocery stores.
Lord also expressed concern about the potential impact of trade challenges on the B.C. wine-only rule in grocery stores.
“If the challenges are upheld it won’t just be B.C. wine. It will be all wines,” she said.
Coun. Dalvir Nahal felt the one kilometre rule would have helped protect local businesses.
“I feel like we have to think about our small businesses that are already operating here. We are going to create more minimum wage jobs and we will lose some good paying jobs, I can just see it happening. This is what happens every time a big retail store starts selling something; it’s the small businesses that suffer,” Nahal said.
The city has not yet received any formal applications from local grocery stores wanting to sell wine. In Kelowna, three grocery stores were granted B.C. VQA liquor sale licenses and have applied to stock wine on their store shelves. Meanwhile in Kamloops, council implemented a one kilometre rule in 2015, but after months of debate recently granted the local Save-On-Foods a variance which allows it to sell wine.
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