Thursday, November 21, 2013

Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) campaign against grocery store liquor sales

It seems for every good idea there has to be someone opposing it.    BC is considering allowing sales of alcohol in grocery stores, something that almost everyone I know thinks this is a good idea.    Predictable opposition is coming from MADD, certain people in the medical field, and public sector unions.   There is also opposition from the industry association for pubs.

The Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) is running a campaign called "Not Worth the Risk" against allowing grocery stores in BC to sell liquor.   I can understand why ABLE BC is against new locations that can sell liquor to the public because it cuts into their profit margin but that is not why they say they are opposed.

The Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) campaign against grocery store sales of alcohol focuses on four points, none of them being the reason why they are opposed to the change:

  1. Loss of taxes to the government
  2. Loss of jobs
  3. Impacts on local producers
  4. Grocery stores allow minors in them and this will give them increased access to alcohol
At the moment to open a private liquor store you have to be in partnership with someone that has a primary liquor licence for a bar or pub.   Many pubs and bars have run their own private liquor stores but some have gone into partnership with others to allow private liquor stores to open.   What this means is that every bar or pub in BC can make extra profits purely because of the laws are written not because it makes any sense.

Should BC allow the sales of alcohol in grocery stores I can see some private liquor stores closing because people will be able to buy drinks when they are already shopping for their groceries.   I freely admit that my purchases at liquor stores will massively drop off if this change is made.  

I think the public ABLE BC reasons for opposing grocery store sales of alcohol is a lot of crap - here is my take on each of them based on the wording they provide on their website

Liquor store taxes provide $1 billion in government revenue annually; selling alcohol in grocery stores puts these dollars at risk.
I dislike how they sort of imply that the loss to the government would be $1 billion.  I fail to see how selling alcohol in grocery stores will reduce the taxes collected by government.   In fact if we reduce the amount sold in government owned liquor stores the tax take by the provincial government will go up because government owned liquor stores do not pay corporate income taxes.

Could the sale of alcohol impact government revenues?    Maybe.  The BC Government collects profits from the government liquor stores.   I am not convinced that the way BC runs the liquor stores brings in as much in profits as revenues the government would collect in corporate income taxes from private sales.

I remain unconvinced that government can operate in the retail field and make more in profits than it would gain in taxes if the private sector ran it all.  

Over 10,000 good-paying jobs in British Columbia could be lost, putting families at risk.
So which good paying jobs are at risk?  Certainly not the jobs in the private liquor stores since they are not good paying jobs.   A good paying jobs start at $30 an hour, there is no way the staff in the liquor stores are earning anything close to this.

Even if there is a loss of private liquor stores, I do not see any evidence that overall employment in BC will be impacted by this move

Even if this were true at all, is the point of government regulation to create unnecessary jobs?   Jobs created through artificial means are not sustainable and are unlikely to be well paid or valued.

Local producers & liquor stores will be impacted, putting your choice of Made in BC wine, craft beer and spirits at risk.
How could this happen?  I am not sure why the sale of liquor in grocery store would mean fewer sales of BC wines and beers.   The current liquor stores sell BC produced liquor because the public want it.  Why would anyone think that grocery stores would not offer the public the products they want to buy?   They are in the business to make money.

I suspect sales in grocery stores will lead to more BC products being sold because more people will be introduced to the products on an ongoing basis.

Grocery stores are not age controlled, increasing the ability of minors to gain access to alcohol, and putting them at risk.
Grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores all currently can sell tobacco.   Tobacco is a product that is much more of a health risk to youth than alcohol.   Moderate alcohol is not linked to any serious health products but moderate smoking is a problem.   Alcohol is not physically addictive in the way tobacco is.  They stores that sell tobacco seem to be able to keep it out of the hands of minors enough that it is not considered a major problem.

I have lived in the UK and spent more than enough time in other countries where alcohol is sold in stores that minors are allowed into.   I have not seen problems there.   Somehow in England, where the average person has a much lower level of education than people in BC, they can manage to avoid mass sales to minors.

Honestly, I think that a clerk is a grocery store is more likely to ask for ID than someone in a liquor store because they know people coming will be under age.

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