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Clark in riding to sell new liquor laws

Winery and orchard owners came together Wednesday in West Kelowna for the BC Government's announcement of their first 12 Liquor Law changes. The changes were recommended by MLA John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Review.

Clark spoke at Volcanic Hills Winery about the recommendations, but one of most talked about suggestions, that being the sale of liquor in grocery stores, was missing from the list.

When questioned on its absence Clark made clear she does support the notion of beer and wine in BC grocery stores, but that the government has public safety concerns they have to work out.

"I'm concerned about the public safety aspect of that, we need to pay real close attention to that, but at the same time we are making sure that BC products do benefit from it," said Premier Clark.

She said she believes the introduction of BC liquor products in grocery stores would increase the foot traffic for the products four fold.

She also says she is well aware that private liquor store operators have argued tooth and nail that selling beer and wine in grocery stores threatens their livelihoods, but she believes when the final plan comes to light she will have changed their minds.

The 12 recommendations going into place are focused on BC products and getting them out to the most people in the most convenient way says Clark.

She says the dozens of benefits will directly affect her West Kelowna riding and the rest of the Okanagan producers by expanding consumers' choices, open up new development opportunities for BC businesses, promote local products and cut red tape.

"We promised to bring British Columbia's liquor laws into the 21st century - to give consumers more choice, give BC businesses more opportunities to grow, while ensuring health and safety," says Clark. "These changes are a step towards that."

Specifically the government is supporting:

  • Local manufacturers by cutting red tape on licensing.
  • The promotion of BC products and producers, both in-store and by exploring the potential for a quality assurance program for craft breweries and distilleries.
  • The growth of the wine, craft brewery and craft distillery industries by allowing the sale of products at locations like farmers' markets and secondary tasting rooms

"Offering out-of-town visitors as well as regular market shoppers the option to taste-test and purchase locally made wines, ciders and craft beer, while they shop for local fruits and vegetables will ensure support for a vibrant farming sector in BC," said Jon Bell, president of the BC Association of Farmers' Markets.

"It's also a great way for small local businesses that use BC grown farm products in alcoholic beverages to reach new customers, while providing increased selection and convenience."

The changes will also allow manufacturers to expand their on-site tasting venues to include, for example, picnic tasting areas in a vineyard.

“Imagine grabbing a bottle of amazing local wine, heading down to the lake and having a picnic,” said Clark.

Clark says there will also be a new and enhanced focus on branding and promoting BC products.

To do so the province will develop new tools, such as smart-phone apps, maps and brochures on BC's wealth of wineries, breweries and distilleries.

"These recommendations are about advancing BC products, building strong opportunities for the small business sector and offering even more compelling reasons to visit and explore British Columbia," said John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform.

"Whether it's enjoying après ski in the mountains, sipping a cold beer at one of our championship golf courses or tasting wine at one of our more than 200 valley wineries - these changes reflect modern marketplace realities and will help us all attract even more visitors to the Thompson Okanagan, and to British Columbia as a whole.,” said Michael J. Ballingall, board chair of Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and senior VP at Big White Ski Resort.

The BC government's support for these recommendations follows on the heels of the now-completed BC Liquor Policy Review. It is anticipated that the full report will be publicly released in the new year, once Cabinet has had the opportunity to fully consider its 70-plus recommendations.

Here are the 12 recommendations:

  • The Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) should improve its marketing of BC liquor products in stores, developing new opportunities for product placement and innovative promotional and educational materials.
  • Government should work with industry and tourism associations to develop promotional materials such as maps, apps and brochures on BC wineries, breweries and distilleries.
  • Government should work with other Canadian wine-producing jurisdictions to jointly develop thematic wine promotions in each jurisdiction's liquor stores to promote Canadian wine.
  • Government should discuss establishing a quality assurance program for BC craft beer and artisan-distilled spirits (similar to the VQA wine program).
  • Manufacturers should be able to establish low-risk tasting venues such as a picnic area as part of their existing licence without the need to apply for a specific endorsement. Government should work with industry, local government and First Nations to increase flexibility for tasting options for manufacturers while being sensitive to potential negative impacts, such as noise, on the community.
  • Allow manufacturers to offer patrons liquor that was not produced on site (e.g., a winery could sell a beer to a visitor).
  • Government should consult with the Agricultural Land Commission about amending the Agricultural Land Commission Act regulations to allow manufacturers operating within the Agricultural Land Reserve to allow more people in consumption areas (e.g. lounges) and to sell liquor that was not produced on site.
  • Government should consult with industry and review the minimum requirements to obtain a brewery, winery or distillery licence. Government should also consider how these requirements are regulated by LCLB and LDB to ensure transparency and an effective regulatory system.
  • Government should permit BC liquor manufacturers to offer products for sample and sale at temporary off-site retail locations (e.g., farmers' markets), with appropriate conditions. The decision about whether to allow vintners, brewers and distillers to showcase their products at a particular location will be left to the location management (e.g., farmers' market association).
  • Allow patrons to buy bottles of liquor to take home that are showcased at festivals or competitions. Consider amending SOLs issued to festivals and competitions, or allow BC Liquor or private retail stores to operate a temporary store on site as the means to provide for these sales.
  • Allow manufacturers to have off-site locations where they can sample and sell their products to the public (e.g., permanent tasting rooms in a downtown store).
  • Provide a more streamlined and time-sensitive application process to allow facilities such as ski hills and golf courses to temporarily extend their licensed area to another part of the property (e.g., a patio near a ski-hill gondola lift or a temporary patio near a golf clubhouse).


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