BC Liquor Stores celebrating 100 years of alcohol sales in B.C.

100 years since Prohibition

This year marks 100 years since the end of alcohol prohibition in British Columbia, and 100 years since the first government-run BC Liquor Stores opened their doors.

Following a 1916 referendum, British Columbia passed its Prohibition Act on Oct. 1, 1917, following in the footsteps of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario by banning the sale of alcohol in the province.

Prohibition didn't last long in the province though, and following a 1920 plebiscite that overwhelmingly favoured ending prohibition, the Prohibition Act was repealed.

B.C.'s Government Liquor Act was passed in March of 1921 and on June 15 of that year, the newly created Liquor Control Board opened the first of nine government liquor stores in the province.

"Fewer than 100 products were available, and all were behind a counter," said Blain Lawson, LDB general manager and CEO. "If you wanted to buy anything you had to be 21 years of age or older and buy an annual permit for $5, or a one-time permit for 50 cents."

By the end of their first fiscal year, 51 liquor stores had been established and the LCB reported a net profit of $1.7 million.

Meanwhile, Canada's neighbours to the south didn't repeal their nation-wide prohibition until 1933.

Liquor sales in B.C. looked quite different in many ways back then compared to today though.

"We received shipments of full-proof alcohol - scotch from Scotland, brandy from France and rum from Jamaica," Lawson said. “The bottling department would then dilute the product with water, bottle and finally distribute to government stores for sale.”

The LCB bottled their own alcohol until 1988, after close to 250 million bottles had been sold.

Government-run liquor stores were the only game in town until 1988, when the province allowed private liquor stores to open.

Today, the Liquor Distribution Branch contributes more than $1.1 billion annually to the B.C. Government's coffers, with taxes from liquor sales going to a wide range of public services.

To celebrate 100 years of operation, B.C. Liquor Stores across B.C. are having a sale on a number of products beginning Saturday. A full list of sale items can be found here.

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