A Sept. 16 announcement that a provincial website will give British Columbians an opportunity to express their opinions about the liquor industry has further fueled anger for a private liquor store owner.
In a press release Monday, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said government has been hearing from industry and stakeholders about changes they would like made to B.C.’s liquor laws.
Anton said the province is looking for “common-sense changes that balance consumer convenience and economic activity with public health and safety.”
But common sense is not a word Hideaway Pub owner Gord Erickson applies to a government looking for opinons when, he says, it is working in direct competition with private liquor store owners.
Erickson takes issue with the fact Salmon Arm’s provincial liquor store has moved closer to him and in a much more prominent location on the Trans-Canada Highway, and will feature many of the specialized features the government enthusiastically recommended private liquor store owners provide 10 years ago when it was announced the province was getting out of liquor sales.
He says the government has broken its own rules by moving their liquor store closer than the one-kilometre distance required for private stores and is selling liquor at prices private owners cannot match.
“The fact that government dictates our purchase price and can manipulate it to their advantage, basically they make it so we can’t compete with their stores by making our cost of sales much, much higher than theirs,” he says. “The fact that they are using this survey or test market to see what the people want is laughable.”
Erickson is also angry the local government liquor store will be one of only seven in the province to feature walk-in coolers, something that has, until now, provided private liquor stores with a bit of an edge.
When asked why the province would build such a specialized store in Salmon Arm, a small community already served by five private liquor stores, Parliamentary Secretary for Liquor Policy Reform, John Yap, said the pilot project is being introduced to stores that are either new or undergoing renovations, which made them ideal candidates for the new cold rooms.
To Erickson, the bottom line is why the government is in competition with privately owned stores.
“The fact remains, the rules for government are different than the rules for private sector in the same marketplace,” he says. “Tell me how that’s fair?”
A call to Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo did not receive a response by press time.