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BC's Public Liquor Stores Loosen up a Little

New rules permitting longer hours (and colder beer) could affect prices, government warns.

By Andrew MacLeod 20 Nov 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative bureau chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The president of the union that represents government liquor store workers in British Columbia voiced cautious support for changes announced Wednesday to how alcohol is sold in the province.

"It's a mixed bag," said Stephanie Smith, the president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, which includes some 3,500 members who work in the public stores. "We're actually seeing this as a good news announcement."

As of April 1, 2015, government liquor stores will be allowed to open on Sundays, extend their hours and sell refrigerated beer and wine, things that were previously only allowed for private liquor stores.

"Those are things we've been asking for for years," said Smith. The union had raised those proposals during contract bargaining in recent years, but saw them rejected by the government.

Asked why the government has now embraced allowing public stores to open on Sundays, Attorney General and Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said, "We're bringing that change in along with this suite of other changes. It's the right thing to do now."

Prices may be affected

On April 1, 2015, private stores and the public stores will also start paying the same wholesale price to the BC Liquor Distribution Branch for products, removing an advantage the government stores have had.

Anton said government revenue was close to $1 billion on sales of about $2.9 billion last year. She said the wholesale price will be set so that the government's revenue will stay roughly the same.

She also said she expects the prices customers pay in the public stores to remain about the same for most products, though she acknowledged, "There may very well be changes."

Smith said the union will wait to assess the effects of the change in wholesale prices. "We're taking a cautious wait and see on that," she said.

The changes, along with the greater varieties of products available and the well-informed staff, give people more reasons to shop at the public stores, she said. "I believe British Columbians will choose a public store knowing the revenue goes back into the public purse."  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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