Kamloops distillery sees liquor stock problem as possible opportunity for small producers

Buying local liquor instead?

Sydney Chisholm

The owner of a Kamloops distillery is predicting an uptick in sales for local liquor makers as striking government workers continue to picket BC Liquor Distribution centres, a move that could result in some product shortages in liquor stores.

Since the strike by government workers started on Monday, B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch has imposed limits on sales of some types of alcohol at government-run outlets. Restrictions are expected to remain in place as long as pickets surround BC Liquor Distribution Branch wholesale and distribution centres in Delta, Richmond, Kamloops and Victoria.

Richard Bugera, co-owner of Red Bridge Distilling, said the company is preparing more product in anticipation of sales picking up.

“We've already been warned that we can probably expect a rush in the next week or so,” Bugera told Castanet Kamloops.

“Right now, everybody is mostly stocked," he said.

"But last Friday was the cutoff for new shipments.”

While imported and big name brands of liquor need to go through liquor distribution warehouses, many local distillers and liquor producers are able to sell product directly to restaurants and liquor stores.

Customers can also buy directly from producers. That's why Bugera said the current strike won’t affect Red Bridge product.

“We were a little bit surprised. But for ourselves, we weren't overly worried because none of our product actually goes to the liquor warehouse,” Bugera said.

“We do our own direct distribution to all of our vendors and restaurants.”

The distillery owner said he believes more businesses and people will begin to look to local producers for liquor.

“We actually had a restauranteur come to us at the farmers market, where they said that they were not going to be able to get some of their products they would normally get, and were happy that they could buy from us directly — put that on their shelves,” Bugera said.

He said he hopes people will continue to shop local even after the strike ends.

“We’re happy that more people may have had a chance to try our products where they normally would just buy what they normally buy,” Bugera explained.

“Especially when it comes to some of the bars and restaurants, and be a way for them to try our products.”

With more than 30 distillers, 180 breweries and 370 licensed wineries in the province, British Columbians have a lot of options when it comes to local liquor products.

Bugera said B.C. may have it a little easier than other provinces that don’t allow direct distribution.

He said last year, when supply chains were cut off, he noticed more people and businesses taking advantage of local production.

Though local distillers aren’t able produce liquor at the same cost as bigger companies, Bugera is hoping people will see the value in a locally crafted product.

“Especially as a craft distiller, we have to do all of our own fermentation and distillation on site, as opposed to some of the larger manufacturers that will actually bring in a pre-made alcohol and then just flavour it, bottle it and send it out,” he said.

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