COLUMN: Lower costs would be greater convenience

The current “modernization” of the liquor laws in British Columbia is taking up a lot of media space...

COLUMN: Lower costs would be greater convenience

The current “modernization” of the liquor laws in British Columbia is taking up a lot of media space, government activity and cocktail party chatter these days.

Will the new boozy look come to local grocery stores? Will private liquor retailers set their hair on fire while burning Christy Clark in effigy? Will our society collapse in a heap of alcohol-sodden shoppers?

Except for perhaps the actions of private retailers, nothing much will change if alcohol is sold in grocery stores.

You very likely will not see the price of booze drop, and other than the convenience of chucking a bottle of wine or a box of beer into the shopping cart along with potatoes and carrots, there will be little difference. In most urban settings there are private or government liquor stores conveniently located in most shopping centres, and in rural communities, Yarrow for one on the eastern edge of Sumas Prairie, you can buy alcoholic beverages in convenience shops and gas stations.

The biggest assumption from those advocating grocery store distribution is that along with the convenience, the price of booze will drop.

You’d also have to assume, given all the potential outlets, that huge volumes of bulk buying would similarly drive down the cost of a six-pack.

Such, however, will not be the case because, believe it or not, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch is one of the world’s largest bulk buyers of alcoholic beverages – you read that right, in the whole world!

BCLDB, along with the Ontario government’s liquor branch, buys more booze in bulk than almost anywhere else, so wouldn’t you think that like other bulk buyers (Walmart comes to mind) the more you buy, the lower the price which in turn is passed on to the consumer?

Except in B.C., of course, where a bottle of hooch is more costly than almost anywhere else – well, at least more than the same product costs in Alberta.

Wouldn’t it be nice as part of the modernization process that the lowering of retail pricing was considered? Of course, the Nervous Nellies who believe lower prices and easier access will result in rampant alcoholism, would never stand for that.

Yet if one is a little creative, and regardless of your age, the potential for cheap alcohol and convenient access is already stocked on grocery shelves throughout the province, so long as you’re not in a major hurry for an alcoholic hit.

Almost every store carries wine- and beer-making kits … just add yeast and water, wait a few days or weeks and you’ve got enough swill to last the winter.

Many years ago I tried that … still have all the carboys and stuff buried in the basement. Even eschewed the kits, making wine from scratch: Japanese plums, blackberries and, in one massive failure, from beets grown in the garden.

That latter effort produced a red wine the colour of which was the envy of the finest burgundy. Unfortunately, following directions, I added to the mix the water in which I boiled the beets. In a few weeks I had 15 gallons of beautiful, alcohol-laden, wine that tasted like dirt!

Not one to waste – thanks to the high alcohol content, the flavor could be ignored after the first glass – my carboys were eventually emptied.

Lesson learned was that wine is best acquired from a store shelf, and unless you wish your home to take on the aroma of a brewery, the same applies to beer. The home-making of whisky out of wheat or vodka out of potatoes hold a similar lack of appeal.

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter if alcohol is available in grocery stores because it’s already accessible almost everywhere.

It is the pricing that matters, and I can almost guarantee that won’t change.




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