News / Vancouver

Consumers 'screwed' by B.C. liquor reform: Vancouver wine merchant

A new pricing model introduced by the B.C. government in 2015 has resulted in big price increases, according to a new NDP-commissioned report.

Spirits for sale at a private liquor store in Vancouver.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File

Spirits for sale at a private liquor store in Vancouver.

Liquor prices in British Columbia have soared because of government reforms in 2015, despite Liberal promises to the contrary, according to a new report.

The province introduced a host of highly publicized liquor reforms two year ago, including a new wholesale pricing model for public and private liquor stores.

At the time, NDP MLA David Eby was accused of fear-mongering for saying the changes would impact the price of alcohol despite government’s promise that they’d be unaffected by the new model.

Booze in B.C.:

Even in the months after the change, then-minister responsible, Suzanne Anton, downplayed an initial spike in some craft beer prices.

“We’re talking about cents here,” Anton told Metro.

But now, Eby says he has proof that he was right all along.

Eby commissioned a report from an industry consultant that tracked the price of 156 randomly selected products at BC Liquor Stores over the two years since the new pricing model was introduced.

On average, the price of beer has increased 13.3 per cent, wine 11.6 per cent and spirits 10.7 per cent.

Not-so-happy hour? The price of beer in B.C. has increased more than 13 per cent since 2015.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File

Not-so-happy hour? The price of beer in B.C. has increased more than 13 per cent since 2015.

That coincided with a 10.2 per cent increase in government revenues from liquor sales the following year, and a further 1.8 per cent increase in the fiscal year ending in March 2017.

Eby says the increased revenues to government were more than double the increase in actual liquor sales (4.7 per cent) in that time and far exceeds inflation.

“The correlation is pretty strong to me,” said Eby. “This is a hidden beer tax. They were being dishonest about it then. They did the same thing they’ve done with ICBC and BC Hydro rates.”

When asked to explain the increase in prices, a spokesperson for the Liquor Distribution Branch said it could not offer a comment for Metro’s story during the election period.

John Clerides, the owner of Davie Street’s Marquis Wine Cellars, said the 2015 pricing model and other changes – such as liquor stores opening on Sundays – have impacted consumers’ and small businesses’ bottom lines.

“It’s kicked us in the stomach,” Clerides told Metro. “Our business went down 25 per cent, others went down 30 to 40 per cent. We’ve finally, finally built business back up but it’s been without a doubt one of the hardest times in my 30 years in the business.”

Clerides said there haven’t been any other outside market conditions to explain such a rise in costs.

“It’s all been manufactured. The government has used us. From a consumer’s point of view, they’ve been screwed,” said the wine merchant. “I’ve had to sharpen my pencil and get smarter. That’s what business is about. I get it. No one is going to sympathize with me for that.

“But at the end of the day, the poor guy or gal with $20 to spend is getting less than they got in 2015. That’s the point.”

More on