Opinion Column

Path laid for B.C. supermarket liquor monopoly

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Many liquor vendors believe supermarkets will take over their business. (FOTOLIA)

Many liquor vendors believe supermarkets will take over their business. (FOTOLIA)

“If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.” - Rounders poker movie, 1998

Forget about alleged BC Liberal government “incompetence” handling impending April 1 liquor price increases, Sunday openings for government stores or anything else – it’s all a red herring.

There is only one fundamental shift coming in B.C. liquor policy and it is enormous – replacing the existing system of public and private beer, wine and spirits stores with a near-monopoly for supermarkets.

There is no real incompetence – it’s simply a distraction to fool the suckers.

What does exist is a Machiavellian plan to eventually wipe out most private and publicly owned liquor stores, and move the majority of booze sales to grocery stores.

The BC Liberals are picking winners and losers with its policies, which are far from free enterprise – since the “competition” is controlled by government.

The strategy is cunning and deceptive, with an allegedly consumer-friendly face promising “convenience” while increasing government profits and making sure the suckers – the customers paying far too much per bottle already – even thank you for it.

BC Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced liquor laws changes in March 2014.

Having recently talked with a wide range of liquor industry insiders, the realization is sinking in that the only true winners are the ones not yet sitting at the table – supermarkets.

Jeff Guignard, Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C. executive director, spelled it out.

“If supermarkets get a full suite of products, it’s private stores and government stores that will suffer – that will lose sales,” said in an interview with 24 Hours. “Sixty-five to 70% of wines in open markets get sold in grocery stores.”

Just like the “incompetence” of BC Liberal government Happy Hour changes that actually increased drink prices – and helped big bar chains compete with small independent pubs, this move reeks of calculated risk.

But the BC Liberals believe that you won’t care about paying several dollars more for the convenience of buying beer, wine and spirits in your local grocery store while the number of selections and the service drops.

Or that if you do notice, you’ll just sigh and have another drink rather than do anything about it.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist and wine expert. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or wine blog at http://winebarbarian.blogspot.ca Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  

Poll

Do you think paying higher prices for beer, wine and spirits in exchange for the convenience of buying them in a supermarket is a good plan?

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