A lobbyist for private liquor stores has raised the prospect of grocery chains owning B.C. wineries.
Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., told the Straight by phone that this is one possibility as a result of the provincial government's plan to allow food retailers to have B.C. wine–only licences.
"Large corporations will come in," Guignard said. "They’ll buy a vineyard or something and then they’ll have an exclusive deal to offer more expensive products with less selections."
Today's announcement to give grocers the right to have B.C. wine–only licences beginning April 1 came a month after the provincial government had decided to let food retailers buy private liquor-store licences as long as they weren't within a kilometre of existing liquor stores.
The B.C. wine–only licences don't have any geographic restrictions.
"I’m actually at this moment standing inside Viti Wine & Lager downtown," Guignard said. "There’s four grocery stores within a five-minute walk from here. So I’m not sure what problem we’re trying to fix by putting wine on grocery shelves."
He accused the provincial government of following a model tried in Washington state, which he said led to higher wine prices, less selection, and the closure of neighbourhood stores.
"I don’t think that’s what B.C. citizens want,” he declared. "It's an unfair advantage, particularly when you look where private liquor stores are located. Many of them are within steps of a grocery store as it is."