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Penticton councillors fighting to remove red tape for off-site winery sales

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The City of Penticton wants to cut red tape in B.C. to allow smaller wineries and distilleries to open off-site tasting rooms.

“It’s to support the smaller, real entrepreneur-style winery that everybody loves,” said Coun. Julius Bloomfield, who is the main proponent behind the idea.

To try make it happen, Penticton is hoping cities and towns across the province will help elevate the concern to the provincial government when they all gather for the convention for the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, Sept. 13.

Currently, only wineries that produce more than 50,000 litres of wine per year are allowed to operate an off-site tasting room in B.C.

“Smaller wineries just don’t do that level of volume so they can’t get a license to operate downtown,” Bloomfield said. 

READ MORE: Kelowna winery looking to use gravity to boost quality of wine +

It’s already competitive for wineries and distilleries that try to get their beverages sold in grocery and liquor stores, he said, so this motion was intended to help those businesses get more flexibility to sell their products.

“It’s a better customer experience, better tourist experience to do a unique little tasting room, whether it be downtown or at the winery itself,” he said.

If the resolution is successful and wineries and distilleries do get permission to open secondary locations, they are likely to operate out of areas with higher levels of traffic than the rural properties most are located on. Among the goals is to help revitalize downtown areas, he said, which will also help reduce traffic in rural areas.

Asked if other manipulates in British Columbia might have a reason to oppose the motion, Bloomfield said it’s possible there may be other implications to consider.

“But we’re not saying it has to be our way or the highway.”

There are no other provinces in Canada that allow off-site tasting rooms for smaller producers. Bloomfield said the idea came from visits to Walla Walla, Washington, where numerous wine and liquor producers are able to operate out of the downtown.

Considering more severe issues facing Penticton – housing, crime, dealing with COVID – Penticton might push for instead, Bloomfield said the motion is being presented at this year’s meeting because of how much time was put into it.

“This ball started rolling a long time ago, it’s over a year in the making,” he said, adding that many other issues will be discussed throughout the convention.

READ MORE: Canada’s first wine village opening this summer in the South Okanagan

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