No grocery store booze sales in Pitt Meadows

Bylaw changes in the works means ban of alcohol sales within a kilometre of grocery store

The provincial government’s new liquor laws will allow for booze to be sold inside grocery stores, but Pitt Meadows council is about to restrict that.

Council voted Tuesday night to direct staff to bring forward zoning bylaw amendments to prohibit all liquor sales in grocery stores located within one kilometer of an existing liquor or wine store.

Grocery stores with a minimum of 10,000 square feet are now eligible for “store-within-a-store” liquor sales, or may stock 100 per cent B.C. wine on their shelves.

Save-on Foods and Langley Farm Market could both be eligible to sell wine on their shelves or have a liquor store located inside their stores, and both are within a kilometre of three liquor stores.

Coun. David Murray said he spoke with two of the three existing liquor stores, and both said their businesses would be severely impacted by a grocery store getting a liquor licence, with one indicating they would be out of business.

Coun. Janis Elkerton called grocery store liquor sales “a controlled substance in an uncontrolled environment, compared to a store that specializes in liquor.”

She said it would eventually lead to hard liquor sales in grocery stores, and cause an unnecessary increase in drinking.

Elkerton said the community is split on the issue, based on her experience.

Coun. Bill Dingwall took the opposing view.

“This is about service and convenience. It’s about being market driven, and free enterprise,” he said. “That’s what our economy operates on.”

Both he and Mayor John Becker argued that regulating the matter should be left to the provincial government.

Becker called the new liquor laws modest changes to rules which for decades have been “Victorian.”

“Most of us have been to the United States. They don’t seem to be going to hell in a handbasket because you can pick up a bottle of chardonnay at Hagens,” he said.

“For us to meddle in the private sector, and in a provincial jurisdiction, I just don’t think is appropriate,” added Becker. “Certainly not at this very early stage.”

Coun. Mike Stark said he would look forward to public input on the matter, and the proposed zoning bylaw change will require a public hearing, when the matter is again before council.