Province growls at brewery tax loophole

Craft brewery patrons will be paying more for takeaway draught soon

Gary Lindsay

It’s Friday afternoon at the corner of Bridge and David streets in Victoria’s Rock Bay neighbourhood.

Five-ton trucks rumble by steel-fenced industrial warehouses, while a steady rush of patrons dutifully file through unmarked doors carrying what look like old moonshine bottles.

Inside, staff at the neighbouring Hoyne and Driftwood breweries can barely keep pace with demand for a 19th-century tradition that’s been revived in recent years, a result of the proliferation of craft brewing in the Capital Region.

Sold by most breweries for a one-time price of $5, growlers are 1.8-litre glass jugs that can be filled and refilled for about $10 onsite.

While only slightly cheaper than an average six-pack at the liquor store, growler use has exploded in popularity for obvious reasons, said Gary Lindsay, Driftwood brewery owner.

“It’s like going to a bakery to get your bread or to a marketplace that has their own farm,” he said. “Anything that connects people to the source of what they’re buying, it means a lot more to them.”

Brewery owners also keep more revenue from growler sales. B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch takes a lower mark-up on draught than on packaged beer sales, a difference of .28 cents per litre.

But on April 1, the LDB will begin siphoning those savings back into government coffers, arguing patrons are consuming the beer off-site so the draught rate shouldn’t apply.

Local brewers can’t predict if the change will impact their bottom line, but the cost will undoubtedly be passed on to the customer.

That doesn’t bode well for brewery regulars like Peggy Leonard, a 40-something Victoria resident who fills up two growlers every weekend.

“If I’m going to somebody’s house, I’ll bring a growler and everybody wants to try it,” Leonard said, adding a higher price may impact her love for takeaway draught.

The LDB levy chips away at craft brewery revenue at a time when most are looking to expand to bigger markets.

“Like any other business in the food and beverage industry, it’s a game of nickels and dimes,” said John Fitterer, sales and marketing manager at Lighthouse Brewing Company. “Everyone’s trying to make a 10-to-15-per-cent bottom line.”

Lighthouse plans to open its first growler and tasting room next week after a 6,000-sq. ft. expansion.

But other breweries like Phillips, Vancouver Island, Hoyne, Driftwood, Moon Under Water, Spinnaker’s and Canoe have been providing growler sales for varying periods, and all have seen a steady increase in onsite sales.

“Part of the idea is it’s environmentally friendly to use the same growler, and it’s also really cost-efficient for the people buying it, and it’s great for us, because we don’t have to package product to sell it,” said Chelsea Walker, co-owner of Moon Under Water brewpub.

In response to the planned mark-up, The Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia is circulating an online petition, hoping to lobby Minister Rich Coleman to reconsider the policy revision.

“This tax hike will harm the growth of this industry and the culture of B.C.,” it states.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Saanich police investigating sexual assault in broad daylight

Social media lit up with accusations incident took place at Regina Park tent city

Swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

Opposing views clash over removal of Royal Oak Golf Course from ALR

Golf course not ideal for farming, says report

Oak Bay man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Most Read