Chilly reception to liquor store fridges

Luke Brocki, 24 hours



More BC Liquor Stores will soon carry refrigerated beer and wine. The pilot project is part of Victoria’s ongoing review of provincial liquor laws and will bring walk-in coolers to seven government retailers this fall, including locations in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Interior.

“We already know that a number of B.C.’s liquor laws are outdated and this is another area where we think B.C. is lagging behind other jurisdictions,” said John Yap, parliamentary secretary for the Liquor Policy Review, in an emailed statement. “Refrigeration units seem to be very popular with customers.”

Once these cold rooms open, the Liquor Distribution Branch will collect public feedback on the pilot. And while the move is expected to delight beer lovers, the association representing the province’s 670 private liquor stores said it’s an outrage and a violation of a 20-year agreement between government and private resellers.

“We’re shocked and disappointed,” Ian Baillie, the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of British Columbia executive director, told 24 hours. “Certainly, the refrigeration aspect was the domain of the private sector.”

Baillie said each walk-in fridge costs around $400,000 — taxpayer money he’d rather see spent elsewhere. He also worries cold beer in government stores could make their private competitors obsolete, as their already uncomfortably thin profit margins couldn’t match government prices.

“This is not about protectionism, but about a level playing field,” he said. “It would absolutely undercut the private sector.”

Ten BC Liquor Stores have been offering chilled products since 1992. All other Canadian provinces have refrigeration in most, if not all, of their government liquor stores.


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