Nanaimo city council isn’t ready to pop the cork on the idea of wine in grocery stores.
While new provincial rules mean grocery stores have the potential to stock B.C. wine, cider and sake on shelves, city councillors haven’t decided if zoning laws will allow the alcohol sales. The issue prompted a call to review Nanaimo’s 12-year-old Liquor Control Strategy.
Grocery stores can now stock cider, wine or sake on its shelves, or create a store within a store. Both models require stores to have licences and meet certain criteria, including being no smaller than 10,000 square feet. There are 33 existing licences in the province and more are planned to be auctioned off.
Some grocery stores in the Harbour City could already be zoned for liquor stores, but for those that are not, it’s up to politicians to decide if zoning bylaws will be tweaked to allow for the new use, or if stores will have to go through a rezoning process.
Coun. Jerry Hong told the News Bulletin he wanted to see councillors take a position at Monday’s council meeting that no liquor or wine is allowed in grocery stores until a new Liquor Control Strategy is developed. It’s a move that would give security to small businesses and allow the city to strike a committee to discuss terms of reference for a review, he said, adding the work can be in two parts, allowing for both immediate and later reviews, and different targets.
Coun. Ian Thorpe said he recognizes the convenience of alcohol in grocery stores, but says there’s enough liquor outlets in Nanaimo. He would lean toward having one-kilometer apart rules similar to what already exists. He also supports a review of the liquor strategy.
“Right now, we, as a city, require specific zoning for liquor sales, for any liquor retail outlets, so we would need to examine do we still want to do that … how do we feel about the one-kilometre distance between liquor outlets? Do we want any grocery stores to be able to sell wine or spirits or alcohol?” Thorpe said.
“The more we looked at it and thought about it last night (Monday), the more we thought before we make a decision on any one specific instance we need to look at the city’s LCS which hasn’t been examined for several years.”
Councillors Gord Fuller and Diane Brennan also say it’s time to look at the strategy.
City staff will report to council with details on the number of grocery stores that would meet provincial rules, those with liquor zoning in place, and information on a Liquor Control Strategy Review.
It’s not known when the issue will land on council’s table again, however, and any applications by grocery stores in the meantime would need council direction.