Liquor in Nanaimo grocery stores will require rezoning process

NANAIMO – City responds to changes to the provincial liquor control legislation.

Nanaimo city politicians will continue to call the shots on where liquor is sold, deciding Monday that grocers must win the right to sell B.C. wine, sake and cider through a rezoning process.

Nanaimo city council decided Monday that grocery stores owners will have to meet certain criteria and apply to rezone, if they want to stock shelves with B.C. wine, sake and cider.

Politicians also agreed to review the city’s liquor control strategy to reflect new provincial rules. The document was crafted 12 years ago.

The province has been rolling out new changes to liquor control legislation and policy, including allowing select grocery stores to carry B.C. wine, cider and sake on shelves, or create a store within a store, if they can meet provincial standards and get a licence. No more than 57 wine licences are expected to be available in the province and there are 12 retailers in Nanaimo that city staff members believe would be eligible.

Until now, however, Nanaimo’s zoning bylaw hasn’t addressed alcohol in grocery stores for owners licenced to sell. Council agreed 6-1 to have staff members bring back a zoning bylaw change to add the definition of wine in grocery stores to its bylaw and create criteria for future rezoning applications.

It’s the option gives council the highest amount of control, according to city planner Dave Stewart.

Other options, which included blanket approval of wine in grocery stores as a retail use, or allowing groceries to sell wine where liquor store already exist, died on the vine.

Coun. Diane Brennan wanted to allow wine sales only where liquor stores already exist, while other groceries would have to rezone. It’s a continuation of past practice, said Brennan, who pointed out that if a liquor outlet is on the property the city would have already gone to the community, had a public hearing and determined liquor sales fit the neighbourhood.

But Coun. Jerry Hong argued that it doesn’t seem fair. Thrifty Foods at Longwood Station, for example, would be allowed to sell wine, while Quality Foods across the street would have to rezone.

“If we’re going to play fair it’s either we allow all of them to do it, or none of them and come to council,” said Hong, who also voted against ancillary wine sales because of the need for public input and to help local businesses.

Allowing wine in grocery stores would have nixed the need for grocery stores to apply to city council.

Only Coun. Bill Bestwick was opposed to having grocery stores apply for rezoning.

The vote for a liquor control strategy was unanimous. Work is expected to get underway in early 2016.

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