Overwaitea “shocked” Vancouver staff reject wine on shelves

City staff report warns of "health concerns" with wine on shelves; instead urges liquor stores within grocery stores
Darrell Jones believes selling wine on shelves will help small businesses that grow grapes and make wine | Chung Chow

Overwaitea president Darrell Jones told Business in Vancouver in an exclusive interview that he is “shocked” that Vancouver city staff are recommending council continue a moratorium forbidding licensed grocers from putting B.C. wine on store shelves. 

Jones wants to move a British Columbia Vintners Quality Alliance (BCVQA) licence to the Save-On-Foods store on Cambie Street at West 7th Avenue and create a large section with wine from boutique producers from around the province.

“It’s surprising to me that the city would not want to take the opportunity to help local growers promote their products,” Jones said June 12.

City staff’s liquor policy report is set to go before council on June 14 at 9:30 a.m.

In it, staff urge council to allow grocers to sell alcohol in Vancouver only when they use a store-in-store model, where there is a closed off area exclusively for alcohol and separate check-out counters are required to buy alcohol and groceries.

The staff report argues that the store-in-store model allows stores the "opportunity" to sell hard liquor, beer and other alcohol while minimizing “health concerns associated with the wine on shelf model.”

It also cites a fear that the wine-on-shelves model would potentially negatively impact owners of small wine stores and liquor stores. To that, Jones said that his store will carry a substantially different product mix than does the government liquor store across the street and up a block.

About the only thing on this topic that Jones and city staff appear to agree with is that polls show that the public wants wine on grocery store shelves. The report cited one survey where 56% of respondents supported wine on grocery store shelves.

“I’m not interested in selling hard liquor within grocery stores,” Jones said. “We don’t think that that’s the right thing for the families and our customers.”

Councillor George Affleck is similarly disturbed with the staff recommendation in the report.

“I find Vision Vancouver quite uptight about liquor regulations and yet very loose on marijuana regulations,” Affleck told BIV.

“Politically, if you watch them in the chamber you will see that they are reticent about liquor policy being looser because they worry that, with the homeless and the people with core needs and alcoholics, making access to alcohol easier will make things worse. I don’t make that logical leap like they do.”

The city's chief licence inspector Kathryn Holm was listed as the staff contact on the report and she did not respond to phone calls from BIV that started June 9.

Overwaitea currently sells wine in 13 of its Save-On-Foods grocery stores in B.C. All of those stores require provincial licences as well as local government approval.

Kelowna and Surrey are the only cities in the province that have two Save-On-Foods stores that sell B.C. wine on shelves.

A wine section at the 1250 Marine Drive in the District of North Vancouver opened a few weeks ago, Jones said.

The other eight cities where there is a Save-On-Foods location that sells B.C. wine on store shelves are:

•Maple Ridge;

•White Rock;

•Prince George;

•Tsawwassen;

•Langley;

•Penticton;

•Kamloops; and

•Parksville.

“We would love to open a 14th store that sells wine on shelves and the absolute place that we’d love to get it would be on Cambie Street at West 7th Avenue in Vancouver,” Jones said.

gkorstrom@biv.com 

@GlenKorstrom 

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