Artist's rendering of a separate liquor store space attached to a grocery store.

Big-box stores excluded from liquor sales

Stores must be at least 10,000 square feet with most sales from groceries, Justice Minister Suzanne Anton says

VICTORIA – Large grocery stores are the only retailers eligible to add a separate liquor store under new B.C. government regulations set to take effect in the spring of 2015.

To qualify for a space to sell alcoholic beverages, stores must have at least 929 square metres (10,000 square feet) of floor space and groceries as 75 per cent of their sales, Justice Minister Suzanne Anton announced Friday.

The restrictions are designed to exclude general merchandise and “big box” stores as well as convenience stores, according to a ministry statement. Eligible stores will be permitted to create a “store within a store” with separate cash registers and staff, or “co-brand” with liquor stores outside their existing facilities.

The government plans to maintain its cap on the number of liquor stores, with 670 private stores now in operation. Liquor stores are currently restricted to relocating no more than five km from their original location, but that restriction is being lifted so a licence can be sold or moved anywhere in the province.

That would allow existing government or private liquor stores to relocate in partnership with grocery stores, while maintaining the regulation that no two liquor outlets can be closer together than one kilometre.

Licensing to sell B.C. wine directly from grocery store shelves, a second recommendation from a province-wide consultation on liquor policy reform conducted earlier this year, is still being studied.

Anton said the system “strikes a balance of added convenience for consumers and support for B.C.’s business sector, while at the same time respecting health and public safety considerations.”