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BEPPLE: The truth behind Kamloops city council's wine vote

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
May 20, 2016 - 7:30 AM

Don’t count on buying wine in grocery stores in Kamloops anytime soon. Not after Kamloops city council’s 5-2 vote this week against allowing Save-On-Foods to sell B.C. VQA wines in its Sahali store.

Only Councillors Christian and Dudy supported the request. Mayor Milobar and Councillor Singh excused themselves because of conflict of interest.

Councillor Spina’s commented there were already enough liquor stores in the area of the Sahali Save-On-Foods store, and Save-On-Foods should look at selling wine in one of its other stores instead.

Perhaps, at its downtown store where there are two liquor stores within a couple blocks, and another a bit further away? Or out in Brocklehurst where there are two liquor stores within a block of the Save-On-Foods store? Or maybe at Save-On-Foods in Valleyview? That one is immediately next to a liquor store. As is the Westsyde Save-On-Foods store.

As far as I can tell, there are liquor stores near all the major grocery stores in Kamloops. It would seem liquor stores like to be located near grocery stores. Now that council has made it clear they will vote against selling wine in grocery stores close to liquor stores, don’t expect there to be any wine sales in Kamloops grocery stores any time soon.

Coun. Tina Lange’s argument is that allowing Save-On-Foods to sell wine would hurt small businesses and council’s job is to protect small business. Poppycock.

The role of council is to dictate rules for land use through zoning and then apply them fairly. Which is what the last council, including Lange, did when it voted 6-2 to change zoning to allow Walmart to sell a greater range of groceries. That move no doubt hurt other close-by grocery stores, but they all survived.

Whether Lange is for or against council protecting small business is questionable. Back in 2012 when council of the day gave Walmart the green light to expand its building and offer more grocery options Lange said it was not up to city council to protect only small grocery stores who might be impacted by Walmart’s expansion. So Lange does not always believe in defining zoning to protect one business over another. Perhaps she only wants small liquor stores, but not grocery stores, to be protected by council.

There is now Walmart, Superstore, Safeway, and Save-On-Foods operating in close proximity. All four grocery stores are surviving, and some would say thriving. In the meantime, a host of other small grocers have opened up and flourished in the shadows of these giants including butchers, bakers and green grocers.

Apparently small grocers can prosper close to larger stores, which begs one to ask, in the same way, wouldn’t small liquor stores benefit being close to a grocery store that sold wine? The fact the majority of Kamloops liquor stores are close to grocery stores already says wine sales in grocery stores would be a win for liquor stores, not a loss.

Everyone is looking for something different in a store. For myself, I shop in one of the smallest grocery stores in Kamloops. I give up price and selection for its convenient location and quick shopping times. When I buy wine I go to whatever liquor store is on the path between my current location and my dinner plans. Chances are, even if Save-On-Foods offered wine, I’d opt for a small store because it would be so much faster to purchase the wine.

Council’s decisions can be changed. Here’s hoping one of the five councillors who voted against wine sales at Save-On-Foods (Pat Wallace, Marg Spina, Donovan Cavers, Denis Walsh and Tina Lange) makes a motion to reconsider. The sky will not fall if wine is sold at Save-On-Foods, nor will it be the death keel to other liquor stores.

For the record, for the 6-2 Walmart vote in 2012, Councillor Cavers and I opposed the Walmart grocery expansion. For myself, I was concerned about more and more retail space zoned outside of the downtown core without sufficient strategies in place to ensure the downtown stays viable. I’m happy to talk land use and preserving city cores, but that’s for another day.

— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.


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