Alcohol sales at farmers’ market praised

Provincial government legislation changes usher in new opportunities for local wineries, craft breweries

The Abbotsford Farm and Country Market manager is guessing locally crafted wines, beers and distilled spirits will be for sale there within the month.

Bruce Fatkin said the market welcomes the B.C. government’s June 21 announcement that opens the doors to alcoholic products being sampled and sold at farmers’ markets.

“This is awesome. This is great news,” said Fatkin. “This is a little piece of agriculture that hasn’t been included before. It will add a really interesting component to the market itself.”

Under the Liquor Policy Review changes, liquor manufacturers have to apply directly to the farmers’ markets where they wish to sell their products and it will be up to the market association to determine which vintners, distillers and brewers are accepted, subject to municipal bylaws.

Fatkin said the board is currently developing its own guidelines on how many of this type of vendor will be permitted, the frequency of attendance and what defines local. The market is working with the city to ensure the appropriate bylaws are amended or in place to ensure compliance, he added.

According to city spokesperson Rhonda Livingstone, a report will be coming to council about the provincial legislation changes, and the impact to Abbotsford.

Mt. Lehman Winery owner Vern Siemens also supported the change.

“That’s fantastic. It’s about 20 years too late,” he said with a laugh. “This will be so good for the smaller wineries.”

Previously, samples could be offered, but bottles couldn’t be sold. The likelihood of someone trying a sample and then making the effort to drive elsewhere to buy the product was low, explained Siemens.

He said this move will see more tourists attend the market.

The sale of alcohol “will go over very well … and it goes with local produce,” Siemens said.

Permitting alcohol sales at farmers’ markets is but one of a number of Liquor Policy Review changes, which also includes changes to regulations allowing variable pricing (happy hours) and imposing minimum drink prices in licensed establishments.

A total of 73 recommendations to B.C. Liquor Policy were recommended late last year, and so far 17 have been implemented. Government’s goal is to implement 70 per cent by next spring.

As well, a complete re-write of the Liquor Control and Licensing Act is planned for spring 2015.