City council to ponder wine sales in Penticton grocery stores once again
By Steve Arstad
Image Credit: Shutterstock
March 07, 2016 - 2:30 PM
PENTICTON - It looks like Penticton city councillors will have quite a bit to discuss at tonight’s regular meeting as the contentious and complicated issue of wine sales in grocery stores is back.
City staff will be asking council to reconsider a motion it made at the Feb. 15 meeting of council. Council voted to amend the a zoning bylaw to limit the sale of wine in grocery stores to 100 per cent B.C. wine and institute a rule restricting the location of a liquor retail store within one kilometre of another outlet.
The original decision stemmed from information council had received over the past year from the BC Private Liquor Store Association, a local consortium of private liquor store owners, micro breweries and local wineries, the Overwaitea Food Group and a group called the Responsible Liquor Alliance, some of which spoke against the prospect of allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores.
A staff report recommends against adopting the one kilometre rule saying it would run counter to the convenience factor the province intended to create with the new rules. None of the grocery stores that meet the province's requirements to sell wine would be able to because of the city's rule.
The report also notes because of B.C.’s small stature as a wine market, the possibility of a trade challenge would be unlikely were only B.C. wines to be sold in grocery stores.
Staff point to a letter from the B.C. Wine Institute dated Sept. 8, 2015 to council saying the one kilometre rule would undermine the work done by the province and wine institute. Additionally, if council chose to impose a one kilometre limit, Penticton wineries would be left in the position of marketing their wine to other communities, without the option of selling to grocery stores in their own community.
On the othe side of the coin, small and medium-sized wineries in the Penticton area feel they can't survive without council’s restriction. They say jobs will be put at risk.
“The one kilometre separation rule will allow our multiple retail sales channels to remain healthy. Grocery stores are not providing us guaranteed access to their shelves like VQA stores have provided and this guaranteed access is critical,” Rob Ingram of Terra Bella Wineries says in a media release. He says South Okanagan wineries are confused by staff's about face on the one kilometre rule.
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