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Quebec grocers dispirited over liquor hours

Association wants stores to be able to sell booze until three in the morning

Quebec’s largest grocery retailers' association is supporting a call to see late-night sales of wine and beer extended to 3 a.m.

“The current situation in Quebec is unjust for food store owners,” said Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, vice-president public affairs with Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADAQ).

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The ADAQ is supporting the push to extend liquor sales asked for by the Association des marchands dépanneurs et épiciers du Québec (AMDEQ). That association, which represents convenience stores, wants its member to be able to sell booze until 3 a.m. then reopen again at 6 a.m.

“The current legislation no longer responds to reality and must be modified,” said AMDEQ president Yves Servais.

He termed the current law “outdated,” “unreasonable,” and “inapplicable.”

Blouin said the ADAQ has long spoken out against the fact that bars and restaurants in Quebec are allowed to sell booze until 3 a.m., while store owners must stop selling it at 11 p.m.

The law also obliges stores to either put up signs announcing the 11 p.m. cut-off, or to lock walk-in beer fridges and cover wine from public view.

Blouin said that police in some municipalities enforce a decades-old administrative directive from the province’s liquor control board, issuing hefty fines to contravening stores.

These problems are mostly confined to smaller stores that are not equipped with scan-related software that prohibits cash registers from opening for alcohol sales after 11 p.m. and before 8 a.m., when alcohol sales can begin anew.

However, both food store groups have raised the issue regularly with provincial politicians and Quebec’s liquor and gaming control board.

“This problem has dragged on for years,” said Blouin, noting that government promises to address the situation have failed to materialize.

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The ADAQ represents some 2,000 of Quebec’s 8,000 food stores, and its members include all the major food store chains, while AMDEQ represents 1,000 corner and independent grocery store owners in Quebec.

According to Blouin, beer and wine sales represent 10% of supermarket revenues, and a whopping 25% or more of corner store sales.

“We feel there’s an opening and our arguments are recognized,” Servais said in a report. “We won’t let this go.”

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