Vancouver grocery stores are now permitted to sell wine, beer and spirits inside their stores, though not without clearing some hurdles.
As part of a larger plan to ease alcohol restrictions in Vancouver, City Council voted last week to allow store-in-store sales rather than on-shelf sales of B.C. wines, a more common option in other parts of B.C. and Canada. To be eligible to open a separate area with its own cashier to sell alcohol, grocery stores must meet provincial requirements of being at least 10,000 sq.-ft. in size and one kilometre away from existing liquor stores.
A city staff report concluded just two Vancouver grocery stores meet the distance requirement, though the Vancouver Sun reported grocery stores could buy out existing liquor retailers or try for a joint venture.
Wine first appeared on the shelves of a B.C. grocery store in April 2015, shortly after the provincial government loosened the rules in late 2014. Though the province made it possible for wine to be added to grocery aisles, retailers still had to adhere to municipal rules on liquor sales so the roll-out has been slow. According to CBC, no B.C. grocery store operates a store-in-store.
Vancouver’s city council voted against a pilot project to allow the sale of B.C. wines in five grocery stores in late 2015 asking instead for a more comprehensive report.
Additional research by city staff found widespread support for the idea of in-grocery alcohol sales, including a survey that showed 56% of respondents “very supportive” of allowing grocery stores to sell wine. However, City Council opted instead for the store-within-store concept which is more restrictive, but permits the sale of a wider selection of products including beer and spirits and not just B.C. wines.
Some grocery operators expressed frustration at the decision. Choices Market spokesperson Tyler Romano told CBC the move is “like one step forward two steps back.”
He said Choices Market wanted the City to go with the wine-on-shelf option. "The wine down the aisles, that's what makes sense ... For smaller stores like us and for customers it's the ultimate convenience, like what you find in Montreal," he said.
Overwaitea president Darrell Jones told Business in Vancouver he was “shocked” the City was against selling B.C. wines on grocery store shelves.
“It’s surprising to me that the city would not want to take the opportunity to help local growers promote their products,” Jones told BIV.
“I’m not interested in selling hard liquor within grocery stores. We don’t think that that’s the right thing for the families and our customers.”