BC's new liquor laws: 4 things you should know on April 1

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Wine bottles on store shelves/Shutterstock

British Columbia is making some big changes to how liquor is sold in the province, and many of those changes take effect on April 1. Here are a few things to know about B.C.’s new liquor laws.

Grocery stores aren’t ready to sell wine…yet

We’ve been waiting and waiting for grocery stores to be able to sell wine, but there is a lot (a lot!) of red tape involved, and at this point it’s not even clear which stores will be  awarded licenses to make the sales. A proposed new piece of legislation would allow for an auctioning-off of dormant licenses, too.

liquor-grocery-store-BCGOV

SEE ALSO: Lottery will determine which B.C. grocery stores can sell liquor

A further restriction is that the wines will have to be B.C. wines. Existing VQA stores and independent wine stores can relocate or transfer their license to an eligible grocery store. The license, however, must only be used to sell wine made 100% in B.C. The VQA, who have yet to add any grocery stores to their list of approved sellers.

So far, it seems that one grocery store is getting ready to sell wine. Save On Foods on 152nd in Surrey is expected to be the first store to do so, and , despite being hedgy with the media, the company has a job opening posted for a Wine Advisor for that very location.

We contacted Overwaitea Food Group, who owns Save On Foods, regarding the Surrey location’s wine sales plan, and they provided us with this response:

We don’t have any details we can share at this time but will as soon as we are able. We understand government will be making a formal announcement later this week.

UPDATE: April 1, 2015 The Ministry of Justice officially announced Save-On-Foods in South Surrey will be the first grocery store in the province to sell wine using the wine-on-shelf model.

BC Liquor Stores will be able to sell cold beer and wine

Welcome to the great thaw…or cooling…in liquor sales. All B.C. Liquor stores will be able to install refrigeration units for selling cold beer and wine as of April 1. Previously this was limited to just “Signature” stores.

BC Liquor Stores will have Sunday, holiday, and later hours

Need a bottle of wine to get through, err, take to that family dinner on Sunday night? Now BC Liquor Stores will be able to match the hours of private liquor stores, meaning they can be open and selling on (gasp!) Sundays, holidays, and into the night.

“On Good Friday [April 3], about 120 of the province’s public liquor stores will be open on a statutory holiday for the first time. Other changes are being introduced this week: Shopping hours have been extended, more than 130 stores will now open on Sundays,” notes the Sun.

Even Justice Minister Suzanne Anton agrees that the old model was a little stifled: “People are used to having stores open, and it’s always been a little odd — certainly in the last while — that BC Liquor Stores are closed so much on the weekends and holidays,” Anton said on CBC Vancouver’s The Early Edition.

UPDATE: April 1, 2015 BCLS has updated their website with information about their new extended hours.

Take those lower prices with a grain of salt

We’ll see what appears to be lower prices on alcohol on shelves at BC Liquor Stores, but that amount will round up when you get to the till. The shelf prices will now be displayed without taxes, but, don’t worry, the government will still get your money when the taxes are added in when you’re at the register.

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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