B.C. farmers markets prepare for liquor sales
Organizers of community markets around B.C. are meeting this weekend to discuss how to mix sales of traditional fare with alcohol, following Victoria’s liquor law reforms. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)
"The whole vibe of farmers markets is a far, far cry from a massive booze fest that you might see at another location." – Kristen Jordan, Sea Cider proprietor
Operators of farmers markets around B.C. are hoping to begin hashing out how to hawk hooch after liquor sales at their events were among the recent approvals in alcohol regulation changes to be made.
Among the recommendations made by Parliamentary Secretary John Yap late last year to reform the province’s liquor laws was allowing beer, wine and spirits to be sold at the markets.
The challenge now, according to Elizabeth Quinn, the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets executive director, is how to administer for the changes and make sure markets don’t have too many liquor vendors.
“Do the craft breweries have to buy all of their barley from B.C.? Those are the kinds of things we’re working out.”
Quinn said questions about if wine has to be made from B.C. fruit to sell at a market would also be part of the conversation.
Another issue is how many vendors selling liquor will be allowed at a market.
“Some markets are small, so we don’t want to have too many,” she said. “But some markets have 150 vendors, so three spirits or wine sellers wouldn’t be very many, they could maybe handle five.”
A possible solution, Quinn suggested, is delegating vendors based on a percentage system — allowing for 3-10% of a market for alcohol sales.
Kristen Jordan, founder of the Saanichton-based Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, said the changes, whatever they are, will help her business.
“Many of the people that go to farmers markets really like our product, but they’re not making special trips to private liquor stores to purchase our product,” she said. “This just makes it more readily available.”
Being able to offer samples at the markets will also enhance the Vancouver Island cider maker’s ability to expand its customer base, Jordan said, adding the sale of liquor at farmers markets is commonplace across the U.S.
This weekend, determining how to regulate such liquor sales will be discussed on Granville Island during the BCAFM conference.
In the meantime, municipalities, Quinn said, needed to start working out how they will licence alcohol sales at the markets.