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B.C. government starts auctions for wine-in-grocery store licences

Auction dates are April 19, 21, 26 and 28 as well as May 3 and 5
Save-On-Foods has been actively seeking to buy licences that allow it to sell B.C. wine on store shelves

The B.C. government is today launching the first of six auctions for eligible grocery store owners to bid for new licences that would enable them to sell B.C. wine on their stores’ shelves.

The auctions will take place over 24-hour periods, beginning at noon and ending at noon the following business day. Each auction will be for a single licence for one store.

The process is being coordinated independently through BC Auction. The Liquor Control and Licencing Branch (LCLB) has engaged a third-party auditor to ensure the auction process is fair and transparent and to audit the entire process once it is complete, according to a government press release.

Up to 12 additional auctions are expected to be conducted at a future date.

The highest bid in each auction is the winner once the final audit confirms these results.

The minimum bid in each auction is $125,000. All bidders are required to submit a $25,000 deposit in advance for each auction. 

To participate, bidders must be pre-screened grocery store owners who have, or will have, a minimum 10,000-square-foot store that primarily sells food. Applicants have been pre-screened, and those meeting the eligibility criteria were invited to register with BC Auction.

The proposed grocery store site may be located anywhere in the province; there are no geographic restrictions on the location or the proximity of the proposed site to other liquor retailers. 

The successful bidder's deposit will be subtracted from the bid amount if the licence is approved.

The LCLB will maintain a record of unsuccessful bidders, ranked according to the value of their bids. Should an applicant fail to successfully complete the application process, the branch will notify the second-highest bidder that they may apply. This process will continue until all the licences have been issued.

So far, the only grocers to show an interest in selling wine or other liquor are Overwaitea and the Sobeys chain Thrify Foods.

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