April fools on the horizon – March 28, 2015

By Anthony Gismondi

Ita��s been a wild month in the hospitality business and with only a few days to go until April Foola��s Day a�� the perfect deadline for our new liquor regime a�� it might be useful to explore the new landscape to see what you are about to face as a consumer, at least when it comes to wine.

Very few of the 73 recommendations put forth by the government to modernize B.C. liquor policy will affect your life in any significant fashion; the selection of wine is not improving on April 1, nor is the price dropping. It will easier to organize a special-occasion license for your wedding and you can buy local wine at farmers market but you will still be paying the highest taxes and prices for wine in the country, with many examples $2, $3, $,4 and as much as $5 more per bottle than in Ontario.

Restaurants, clubs, and bars have a�?benefitteda�? from a number of liquor-law changes, including off-site storage and the right for their customers to walk from the bar to the dinner table clutching their glass of the highest priced wine in the country.

What they didna��t receive was the only thing they asked fora�? a standard wholesale price available to every other reseller in every other business in the free world. Instead they will continue to pay the same retail price as you and I and double or triple that amount to arrive at some of the highest wine list prices on the continent. Note to tourism. In the new era of food and wine tourism why would anyone come to B.C.?

Perhaps the biggest changes for the consumer will be surrounding BC Liquor Stores. Clearly they have a new purpose in life. They want your business and as a result of the new wholesale price that ensures everyone in the retail game starts with the same base price, including them, they may be best positioned to go after the private-store business.

BCLDB general manager Blain Lawson has said prices in BC Liquor Stores will not change on April 1, which means government shops will be operating on a margins so thin they couldna��t afford the rent at most private wine shops. But when you are collecting most of your money upfront, in the form of a wholesale tax, who needs to operate like the competition?

If cold beer and Sunday shopping appeals to you, government is also muscling in on the private stores, in a sense levelling the field, by doing the same thing starting April 1. You could say government are taking back the last of the perks (remember when only private wine shops took credit cards?) that were a part of the private wine-store license way back when.

So where does that leave you on April 1? You can still shop where you want and the net effect on prices will be negligible. Just remember, the tax is no longer in the price so add 10 per cent PST and five per cent GST to your bottle price.

Speaking of 15 per cent, thata��s the loss of income the original private wine shops will face April 1 before the field is further tilted, leaving them without beer or spirits so there is no way to know what they will do with pricing. One presumes it will need to rise, or they are going to need to find the cheapest wine in the world that they can quadruple in price and try and stay in the game?

One thing private wine shops should focus on is out-retailing the government and, as customers, you should be considering the whole retail package: price, service, on-line shopping and delivery.
The last two incredibly do not exist in government stores and ita��s something private wine shop owners must use to their advantage. I also think private wine stores should specialize more. There is no need to copy the government retail model; ita��s nothing special.

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