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To Whom It May Concern At The BC Liquor Distribution Branch…


We’ve had some good times, it’s true, but I think we’d both agree that our relationship has been rocky since the start. Lets call a spade a spade – a Merlot a Merlot. When we first met, I was doe-eyed and new to the wine scene, while you were experienced and empowered. I naively trusted your selections and figured you knew what you were doing. After all, you’d been in the game for a very long time.

But then I began to see signs that made me question your commitment. My “spec” orders of wine would almost always take two weeks (!) to arrive at the restaurant, and sometimes they wouldn’t show up at all. When I’d call to inquire, your people would be rude and impatient. I once attempted to buy wine from the shelves in one of your stores, but was refused the purchase because the manager “didn’t want the shelf to look empty.” Pardon me? I thought. Are you no longer in the business of selling?

I’ve always been loyal, but I’m writing you today because my purchasing colleagues and I are tired of being treated like second-class citizens when we are, in fact, your biggest customers. Have you not read Dale Carnegie or Guy Kawasaki? Why are you making our exchanges so difficult? For the longest time I quietly resented the poor treatment. Indeed, why complain? You were the only game in town, and enduring was the only option.

But then I began to travel. I saw that the grass was not only greener, but more vibrant, luscious and beautiful elsewhere. I saw alternate realities and my mind and heart began to wander. The abuse and inadequacy you dished out daily was replaced by prompt, friendly and professional service. Service! I saw businesses working hard to keep their customers the way businesses should. And the prices! They were a fraction of what you were forcing me to pay. The selections were vast and the costs were hard for me to comprehend. Being confronted by how, for example, the San Franciscan people experimented with their wine choices, how they bought inexpensive bottles for dinner at the grocery store, how they flocked to wineshop tastings, how they intelligently discussed wine and obscure Italian regions, how they filled seats in the restaurants with clever wine lists and talked about sommeliers like B-level celebrities, how they truly had a wine culture…made me feel cheated and severely wronged by you. I wondered how you slept at night.

From what I could see in San Francisco, there was no chaos in the streets. There were no police cars on fire. Order was maintained. And then there’s you, the Great Stifler, the grand obstacle to our emergent wine culture. You make interesting wine inaccessible for the average Joe with ignorance, absurd pricing and curtailing what is made available. Your stores offer row upon row of Aussi Shiraz and Argentinean Malbec, but not a single bottle of interesting desirables like Loire Pineau d’Aunis or Jura Trousseau or Ligurian Rossese or even Basque Txakoli. And should – by some stroke of luck or happy accident – any of these eclectic beauties make land in your stores, the prices would deter even the most adventurous.

What’s more, your store employees are paid handsomely, but often come supplied with very little wine knowledge (though you’ve embedded enough bitterness to turn even the steeliest of stomachs). Worse still, your system doesn’t support the little guy – the independent owners who dream of operating small, niche shops or specialized wine bars (it certainly doesn’t help that the shops are both your clients and your competition). You are blind to people with knowledge and people with passion. You don’t even give wholesale prices to restaurants! Seriously, how can you justify that? You make it nearly impossible to survive in an already impossible industry by remorselessly asphyxiating the eager. You are killing the passion in our new generation of sommeliers and restaurateurs. And for what? Greed and fear of change.

I thought we all deserved better. I had a lot of questions and I was confused. Always an optimist, I came home and gave you another chance. Perhaps you’d changed or perhaps I could change you. Unfortunately, it seemed you were still up to your old tricks. We hosted the Olympics, but none of the tales of sensible and liberal liquor laws spread by our visitors had moved you. Laws may have been relaxed to lessen your shame and make our province look fun and happening, but the world saw through that, and so did we. Then the HST came along. You saw your chance to squeeze more life from the people and raised our import taxes on wine from 117% to 123%. You consistently embarrassed me and my colleagues in front of our visiting southern neighbours. When Americans asked me why the Napa Cab that they pay $10 for at home is $25 on your shelves and $60 in our restaurants, I could only laugh uncomfortably and say “Tough pill to swallow sir, eh?”

Today, exhausted, I can no longer defend you. We have a disheartened wine scene, and you’re squarely to blame. Quebec’s easygoing – nay, enlightened – SAQ makes you look ridiculous with its more modest, sliding scale of markups and impressive, varied selections. Just look at all those gorgeous wines that Quebec wine blogger Aurélia frolics in! And she hardly pays anything for them! Even Alberta makes us look bush league with its fun-loving, privatized system. A little healthy competition would be good for reasons that transcend us being seen as a population of bores who are regulated by teetotallers. Haven’t you never been inspired and moved by a bottle of wine? No? Well, shouldn’t you have been? Do you really feel that a bottle of fine Burgundy – a wine with vast history, best shared with your friends and family at the dinner table (one capable of arousing conversation and evoking emotion) should really be regulated and taxed similarly to a big brand vodka, a tasteless product with no other purpose than to get you drunk? Are you truly that daft and blind to the difference? Do you have no feeling or compassion or empathy? You’ve been consumed with regulation and so intent on raising your bottom line, that you’ve become a monster.

I think it’s time you and I called it quits for good. I’m sure even you’d agree that you don’t belong in the booze business (no government does, really). It’s too much of a headache for all of us, don’t you think? It’s not 1920. The Volstead Act has long been abolished. You don’t want this anyways, do you? Think about how happy you’d be, how much money you’d save, how free you’d feel, if you just let it go. You could be replaced by private companies that would work efficiently and effectively to fight for my attention. They’d treat me like a customer and not a nuisance, encouraging healthy competition by allowing our wine shops and restaurants to operate profitably without having to gouge their customers just to survive. My colleagues wont be forced to head out on illicit, monthly runs to Calgary or Seattle to keep the shelves stocked with interesting spirits and wines (where they are even offered a licensee discount…what a novel fucking concept!). Sounds a little like prohibition, doesn’t it?

I’m pleading with you both as your old friend and a stakeholder. If you exit, the people will be able to afford high quality wine more regularly. The new private wine shops will be staffed by a knowledgeable and passionate generation. I know that they wont all be the romantic vision of ‘ma and pop’ stores (we’ll have our Liquor Emporiums for sure), but the best shops will get better and our local wine culture will blossom. It wont happen overnight – I know that, too – but eventually it will be great; our grass transforming from dry and dying sod to thick, healthy patches with promise.

Go ahead. Privatize! And then privatize some more. You can do it. Be free!

Love always,

Jake Skakun | Sommelier

There are 200 comments

  1. Amazing!! Someone should email them this, though like they told me once regarding ordering at a particular branch..” We dont check our emails everyday”

  2. I love this! I once worked for BC Liquor at the retail level and quit after 2 weeks. The type of wage in the government stores would be fair if met with some enthusiasm on the employee’s end.

    I never thought much about privatization much until I started to understand wine culture. Now, knowing how much there is to know, and also having travelled, I see the flaws in our system.

    I agree with this completely. Privatize — for the love of wine & happy times — please privatize!!

  3. Blood shall flow in the streets like Yellowtail Shiraz. All hail the father of the revolution. Viva Skakun!

  4. Well said Jake. Any chances BCLD read Scout? Lets hope so. Viva la revolucion!

  5. I swear to gawd that I have never been to the Liquor Store (back and/or front) without hearing one of these lines being said:
    “I’m gonna go on a break now.”
    “Who’s turn is it for a break?”
    “You ready for a break now?”
    “Hmmm….. I think he’s on his break now.”

  6. well said indeed!! and i understand BC producers have to report sales and pay a ‘deposit’ to the LDB who then receives money from the customers, takes their cut of a mere 30% or so, and pays the producer 2-4 weeks later. in many cases, the LDB does not even handle the goods.

    oh yeah, and that deposit? it’s equal to the amount of sales, so in other words, the producer has to pay the LDB for a product for which he bought the ingredients, turned them into a tasty beverage, and then marketed and distributed to the customer himself – and then wait up to a month for the LDB to reimburse the money. less of course, their cut for … uh … haven’t been able to figure that one out yet.

  7. I agree with the author 100% but he missed a very important new development that has made an even bigger problem for those of us who enjoy a decent bottle or three with dinner. Am I the only one who has noticed that in the new “Signature” stores that all of the wine is now standing up.

    Read even the most basic of wine articles or books and the first thing they say is store the wine on it’s side. This is a very fucked up development. The “consultants” tell us they sell through the product fast enough that it’s not an issue. That may be true at 39th and Cambie but at other stores the wines have been standing for up to 2 years.

    These wines are damaged, I’ve bought a few and tried them and they were dried out. When I returned them nobody seemed to give a rat’s ass. So now we are paying more then anyone in NorthAmerica for inferior product.

    The answer for me is to buy more wine from people like the Marquis Wine Cellar. These guys get it. On the other hand Everything Wine is almost as useless as the LDB.

    The alternative for me is to buy wine south of the border and import it myself. This works well on bottles over $30 because the LDB markup is capped at just under $14. So the selection is wider, the wines stored properly and one can save some money if they buy from K and L or High Times. You are allowed to import as many as 5 cases per crossing without a license. BTW be honest about the price of the wine or you will end up like one Vancouver collector who lost all of his wine and was nailed with $30,000.00 in fines.


  8. If you want to know one small reason precisely why we have an antiquated system please read an article I posted on my blog http://blog.marquis-wines.com

    The LDB and the BCLDB have a lock down control mentality. I just spoke to a very well known caterer in town. She received a letter from liquor licensing informing her that they rick a 100,000.00 fine, no not a misprint, one hundred thousand dollars. Why, because they were going to the liquor store, picking up wine for their catering events, applying for their special occasion license, which they are only allowed to do two of a month and charging a service charge for this, sounds reasonable yes? A service for their clients, yes, not something government knows anything about, service. The government considers this bootlegging. These are the same people that did not allow advertising or allow private stores to deliver – they had to physically come in the store, pay for the wine and arrange for delivery, hardly an efficent use of time.

    When my kids were young my wife and I used to play the just imagine or what if game with our kids, we all loved it, you remember don’t you, cows could fly etc. Well in BC my dear friend’s ideas are against the law. Just imagine if these people were in power 100 years ago, women would still not be able to vote & gay rights would not exist, just imagine

  9. Loved this article.
    We are a new company and we are in the trenches every day trying to get our specialty rums “out there”. The “rules” and bologna extend to all products in the system, not just wine.

    There are some really good people at the LDB at all levels. But the fact remains, the system is broken.

    Spec product? Most civilians don’t even know what this means. So the quick and dirty def: A product that is not carried by the Gov. stores–only in private stores. A product that must be purchased by the case by business owners. This last point is the biggest barrier to new products that don’t have the likes of Diageo pushing them through the system with the promise of multi-10s of thousands of dollars in marketing campaigns. Restaurants, bar etc must purchase a case of a new products to even test it out! this can be risky and a threat to the tightening bottom line and thus is not common practice.

    The first step in righting this broken system is allowing for Licensee to Licensee sales ie. a business owner that operates a pub and liquor store can have the liquor store purchase all of their products for both locations and sell to the pub as needed. This would all but eliminate the Spec product and the “by the case” barrier and the public would gain greater exposure to new products!! Sounds simple right? It would be, but at the moment, despite repeated attempts to challenge and change this rule— the practice of licensee to licensee sales is totally illegal.
    Bologna !

  10. This is great. Being from England and having travelled pretty much all over Europe, I can say that one of the most annoying things about Vancouver is that I can’t enjoy my passion for good wine anymore – paying $20 for wine that would cost 3 euros in a Spanish supermarket is incredibly depressing.

  11. So, what happens next. The BCLDB may hear about this but they just shrug their mediocre, bureaucratic shoulders and “so what”. Or do we start sending letters to the new Liberal management or Conservative (maybe). What is there to do???

  12. What is the solution? Over four years ago I approached the president of the BC restaurant association, Ian Tostenson, to lobby the government, I explained the spec product situation to him, he assured me he would work on the issue, nothing happened, and he is still the president, what has he done for our industry?

    So what do we do, there is a sea of discontent, there are a wealth of small establishments operated by passionate caring people who want to bring the best food and wine to their friends, family and customers, but they cannot, so what do we do, does any one have any ideas?

    When a single restaurant, pub, wine store or importer complains it falls on deaf ears, they get inspected; listings do not get approved or are threatened. Collectively we can achieve change, where do we start, how do we start, are there enough people out there to help with change?

  13. I grew up with a father in the import wine business and still opened my own restaurants hoping the future would bring new and innovative changes. No deal.
    Enough! We need to do as John Clerides has suggested and become not a number of little voices but a loud chorus of voices under one banner. Yelling. REALLY LOUDLY. Get the word out to the public about what patsies they are for paying the highest rates in North America. Heck, probably the free world!
    Get viral and start something.

  14. Well written my fed-up friend. I could go on for hours dealing with the LDB since the 80’s! And guess what…it’s still the negative experience it was then.Now with the Top 30 billboarded in every frikken LDB in B.C.,just try and find that little gem that you heard about but now can’t find.
    Thank goodness the Private sector is starting to make some wins with it’s service,knowledge and selections. Cheers!

  15. Absolutely beautiful Jake. If you really care about this issue you need to contact Rich Coleman at [email protected]. Send him a link and your comments. I have.

  16. […] friend Jake Skakun, writer at Cherries and Clay and sommelier at L’Abattoir, has penned an excellent open letter to the BC Liquor Distribution Branch criticizing many of their practices. If you are not aware of how the government regulator is […]

  17. Those of you who remember the days TV’s were not allowed in restaurants, draft beer could not be served either, it was the domaine of the big beer companies, one could not walk into a restaurant with a friend and order a beer or a glass of wine without ordering a meal. I distinctly recall watching the news and the broadcaster showing a 4 inch binder issued by the government as to what constituted a meal versus a snack. This all changed some 15 years ago. I know the fellow who did it and how he did it, I spoke with him for two hours about it.

    The same people who were at the LDB and liquor licensing then are still there today, they bow under public and political pressure. I am not going to beat around the bush this will take take time, patience and money. I am willing to work my ass off and help achieve the goals the consumer and our industry deserves but I cannot do it by myself. If anyone interested I am not hard to find, call me at at the store 604-684-445

  18. Nicely put, Jake. I hear this a lot in the beer world as well – there are unsurpassable delays on delivery, unwillingness to order non-catalogue items, and perplex surcharge scheme. I tired to order a 24-case of beer already available in Vancouver and not in Victoria – and they said there was a $56 shipping charge, claiming the item’s origin was from Calgary. I mentioned that they must already have some at their depot because I knew of a Vancouver order having already been filled that week.

    On the flip side, I have met numerous helpful, knowledgeable BC Liquor Store staff and certain managers whom went out of their way to get both product into their stores and fill special orders. Just wanted to mention that not everyone should be painted with this same brush.

    – CapFlu @ RateBeer

  19. As many have already said, Jake’s open letter is not only brilliantly written but dead-on. I’m a lawyer who practices in the area and I can say without hesitation that the liquor distribution system in BC is archaic, inefficient and frankly ridiculous by modern standards. There is a colossal waste of taxpayers money to run the system. In addition, it is a blatant conflict of interest for a monopoly branch of government to control the wholesale side of the system when it supplies both its own government stores and private stores with which it is in competition. The system seriously harms the development of the hospitality sector and of a serious wine culture. Prohibition ended almost 90 years ago in BC but, regrettably, the government control mentality lives on. British Columbians should be seriously embarrassed by our system. The comments are great – it is time for long overdue change.


    that is a great piece of writing!!!!!!

    I think you could do more with a solution. I wonder what would be the incentive for BC to let go of this cash cow? analyze the effects of privatization on the producers in BC.

    If we show them they are useless then maybe we can bring this out in an election issue

    well done

  21. The affect of the BCLDB and its antiquated policies has far reaching silent affects. I just spect two weeks in Burgundy visiting suppliers. The BVIB, the orgainzation whose responsibility it is to promote its wines, will be doing a road show to Canada. They will be visiting Montreal and Toronto and not BC as they had done in the past.

    This means some 30 suppliers will not be staying in our hotels, visiting our restauants and shopping in our stores. This is one minor example of the loss of revenue we incurr.

  22. We also have a great cocktail community and are handcuffed by the limited amount of spirits available. The process of trying to bring in new products is long and painful, the LDB seems to want to drown the shelves with whatever is popular on MTV. A memorable comment last year as from a very prominent cocktail writer from the US who said how amazed he was with our scene, and how laughable our liquor store was, saying hes seen duty free stores with a better range of products. We dont need more flavoured vodkas and 10 differnent types of Alize.

  23. Jake, I recently returned form my second trip to Alsace. Just love their wines. I particularly love their cremants. Only two available in BC. So when I heard from one of my contacts in Alsace that the BCLDB had arranged for a tasting tour, I contacted the two head honchos visiting there and suggested that they Please try some cremants and hopefully add them to the LDB lineup.
    NO RESPONSE. So I emailed them again and yes you guessed right, no response again. That got me very annoyed ! I have an email wine newsletter that has a great following here on Vancouver Island. I sent out a special newsletter to all my readers about this obnoxious attitude from the LDB.
    You have my email address and if you want to read what I wrote, drop me a line and I will forward my newsletter. Your write up is brilliant !

  24. Hear, hear!
    This is a sentiment felt for decades.
    I remember once when a liquor control (and I put heavy emphasis on the “TROLL”) inspector came into a restaurant I worked at and closed down the lounge until we made all the chairs 1 inch shorter,
    I would have thought the staunch, and pretense of power the upper board members clutched to since the 20s would have faded as they died out and retired. Surely the BCLDB union have a over generous pension package robust enough to get the these olde-tyme non-contributors off the floor by now? Trouble is this system indoctrinates the newer ones coming in like mould in a cork.
    And I’m not sure that even matters now as the government realizes how handy a monopoly can be as they continually squeeze every revenue source lemon for lemonade. To make it even more bitter, the .05 breathalyzer is turning into a paralyzer of restaurant industry.

    I’d gladly put my name on the petition.
    Where is it?

  25. Thanks all for reading and the overwhelming support. I didn’t expect this big of an audience, but it goes to show how disheartened and frustrated a large portion of people in BC are.

    I agree that there are some great people who work for the BCLDB, and I didn’t want this to be an attack on them, but rather a spotlight on the broken system as a whole. I think that a lot of employees are embittered because of how frustrating it must be working for an obviously flawed establishment.

    My goal in writing this was to spread awareness in a format that everyone would enjoy reading. Hopeful also that the unhappy sentiment in the industry would get some coverage in the media. I felt like the media’s attention on the ‘Cellared in Canada’ debacle helped to incite some change.

    I believe the first step is to put a meeting together and start a group with something tangible (name/website/mailing list) that those interested could sign up for and support in whatever way necessary. A clear and united vision of a solution that can then be spread and promoted on the web, in the media, and on the street.

    John Clerides of Marquis is a great voice in the industry with years of experience dealing with the monopoly. Mark Hicken too has plenty of insight and brings valuable legal expertise to the table. Support these people.

    I write this as I sip the ’07 L’Ame Soeur ‘Terres de Viennae’ from Michel & Stephane Ogier. Perhaps suiting that I packed this spectacular wine home from my last trip to Calgary.

  26. Just a little tidbit, all alcohol in Canada is regulated by Provincial Governments, including the privatized stores in Alberta, they are still all required to buy there product from the government. The only loophole to this is purchasing your wine within your own province from the wineries themselves. Privatization does not mean better competition, it just means you will see some ‘loss leaders’ sold less expensively in private stores with the rest of their product sold far more expensively.

  27. Privatize? Are you kidding?
    Most “private” stores don’t have anywhere near the selection that the government stores do, and they charge $3-4 more for the “convenience”.

    Private stores can “special order” anything and sell what they want, but most choose not to. (there are a handful of very decent private stores, however)

    Try going to Seattle, and look for a particular Rhone or Alsace wine, and see just how many stores you have to visit before you give up and choose something else.

    When I travel, I’m always checking out what’s available, and have yet to find anywhere with a comparable selection to here. & last time I was in San Francisco, some of my favorite US wines were not much cheaper.

    &P.S. people that “cash cow” funds our healthcare, amongst other things.

  28. Well, you must remember, you are selling alcohol: a poison. Cannabis production and distribution exists under a different system of government censure, but happily enough good availability and variety still exists. And there it’s either provide good customer service or perhaps off to gaol!

  29. John, thanks for your comment, but it doesn’t sound like you have a firm grasp of the current BC Liquor system. ‘Private’ wine stores in BC still must buy through the government monopoly and often pay slightly less than what you or I would walking in off the street at a ‘Signature Store’. Hence the ‘$3-4 convenience’ markup, which is actually most of their profit margins. Plus they are then competing for sales with their supplier. All wine shops/restaurants should have a significant discount to make the business more profitable for anyone other than the BCLDB.

    I’m talking about privatizing the wholesale, distribution and retail levels of the liquor system, not just the retail stores.

    I lived in San Francisco for almost a year. I can say unequivocally that the wines are significantly cheaper for both restaurants, wine shops, and the consumer. Businesses can operate by selling wine at fair prices. Convenience/grocery store pricing may not always reflect this. The selections are much much more vast.

    Thanks for reading.

  30. I’m still not convinced we’ll have better selection. (& why would I opt to pay $3-4 more) Private stores will mean a much more limited selection, requiring a lot more legwork to find what you’re looking for. The same thing is happening in all of the retail sectors, no one wants to keep large inventories on hand, and only the government can afford to do so.

    I recently purchased a $13 california wine here, and found it in San Francisco for $12, ( from a large wine merchant, not a grocery/convenience shop)not exactly “significant savings”, and spirits were virtually the same price, unless you wanted unheard of brands in large plastic containers.

    The system here isn’t perfect, but I appreciate the selection that is available to me, (& you can’t deny we have a great selection here) and I would hate to see it disappear.

  31. Actually, John, I would never argue with you that we don’t have a wide-selection of cheap plonk under $15, comparable to most of the US.

    What we’re missing is the selection and pricing for everything over $15. For anyone who is passionate about wine, this is where selection and price matters.

    You’re comparing apples and oranges.

    Take a look at a store like Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in San Francisco, carrying some of the most well celebrated wines in the world. You can get about 10% of his inventory here in Vancouver, if not less, and it will be at a minimum100% price premium.

    Forget the Yellow Tail, Gallo and Blue Nun. That bulk wine is available everywhere for dirt cheap.

  32. John your wrong. Privatized liquor states have a lot more to offer at way better value. Having worked with wine in Alberta, Melbourne, New York and BC and travelling a lot in between I can tell you brick faced that you have no idea what your talking about. Perhaps you couldn’t find any Rhone wine while in Seattle but lets be honest you were at a Bodega really looking for Four Loko and not at Pike and Western wine where as an example they sell the Penascal Tempranillo-Shiraz for $9 a bottle and where our BCLDB sells it for $13.

    Your idea of private stores not having the selection of BCLDB may be right if by that statement you meant that a private BC store didn’t carry every label of Wolf Blass, Little Penguin and Paul Mason.

  33. John, how many US ryes does the LDB carry?? How many brands of small batch Mezcal? How many brands of Pisco?How many brands of flavoured vodka?? Answers-0,0,1,20+lol
    I can drive 2 hours south and my answers would be 15+,5+,5+ and they would be half the price if we were able to get them in, and i wouldnt have to buy a case for one establishment

  34. Actually Paul, you’re wrong.
    I worked in the industry for 12 years. & I’m not talking about cheap table wines.
    Case in point…Kermit Lynch is in Berkley…..bit of a trek from downtown San Francisco isn’t it. It’s one store, how can you possibly compare that to our selection here, where I can go to any local LDB store and find quite a decent selection. Pull your head out of your “Wine Advocate fantasy world” for a minute and take a real look around.
    & P.S. I’ve been to Alberta several times, and the wine selection is poor, with comparable prices to BC. Had to do a lot of driving to find a decent selection of import wines.

  35. A bit shocking to me that I break the law each time I buy local wines in Niagara (made with grapes grown by my brother) and bring them back with me to Vancouver. Sports hero vintages aside, there are some great wines coming out of Ontario and we can’t access any of them in BC (and vice versa naturally). I am all for bringing in more interesting global stock, but also think we should feel a bit shameful about the lack of support for domestic product.

  36. All very good comments on a well written article. Like most things there is a very simple solution but some pitfalls to be aware of. 1) 95% of all imported and domestic product goes through Container World. By privatizing distribution you immediately transfer power from a public monopoly to a private one. None of the stated goals will be attained by doing this. A compettive supply chain would. 2) We shouldn’t have a problem with LDB stores existing, the problem is that there are two sets of rules. Level the playing field and let the best restailers win. By win I mean stay open. Our system at present artificially supports LDB stores that can’t pay for themselves and independent stores that fon’t offer any real value than having liquor and a cash register.
    The simple solution is to eliminate the ridiculous discount system and institute a wholesale price structure that all licensees pay- this includes LDB stores. It is estimated that it costs the LDB 25% to operate as they do right now. Take 25% off the current price and make that the wholesale price. Then LDB stores that can pay for themselves will continue to generate additional revenues to the government. Those that can’t should close. Is there anything fairer?
    At the end of the day success as a restaurant or retailer is premised on the value you offer your customer. That’s it. Our liquor system should reflect this. The added bonus here is that it doesn’t cost the government a cent and is likely to generate greater revenues.
    To be clear I run a chain of independent liquor stores on South Vancouver Island called Liquor Plus and I welcome this debate.

  37. Well said Rod.
    I’ve been in your Royal Oak store, and was impressed. (definitely far more than the usual “liquor and cash register” set-up) But retailers like you are few and far between, most private stores I’ve been in, are a waste of time, selling generic brands at inflated prices.

  38. John on November. Are you saying that the selection of Rhone and Alsace wines is better here at our LDB then south of the border? I can’t think of too many places that have a poorer selection of Alsatian wines then here and as for the Rhone it’s pretty spotty as well.

    The Marquis Wine Cellar has equal to or better selection from both regions then the LDB and when it comes to Seattle and San Fransisco, I have to think you must only be going to Trader Joes and Costco Dude.

    As for the fact that we can get a 12 dollar California wine for 13 here, that seems like little cause for celebration. That being said though I have no arguements with you about the Chronic, your knowledge of that seems greater then mine.

  39. I just read your 2:07 comment about somebody pulling their head out of the Wine Advocate fantasy world. What does that mean? You speak of the Rhone, yet dare to disrespect the Rhone’s greatest advocate? You are an idiot.

  40. Please disregard all my arguments as I failed to note that Kermit Lynch’s retail shop is, in fact, in Berkley, and not San Francisco. Therefore, the logic of my whole argument is not valid.

    Cheers 😛

  41. Excuse me as well. I should be happy with the wonderful selection of Rhone and Alsatian wines available here. Nothing like a bottle of Dopff and Irion Pinot Blanc or Perrin’s Cote du Ventoux. Who needs anything better?

  42. DJC: I’m not disrespecting Robert Parker at all, he puts out a valuable publication. But most of the wines he rates, are hard to come by in their country of origin let alone anywhere else, and generally generally limited to a small percentage of the wine buying public.

    For the record I was downtown SFO at the ferry wine merchant, which was the only decent store that I found. It had a lovely selection (well edited), but a very small one, compared with our specialty stores here.

    Everyone wants selection & they think a smaller private store is going to stock that obscure Rye or pisco! Not bloody likely. Selection will diminish.

    Pike & Western is a lovely store, but again a one -off, with not too friendly hours, closes most nights at 6:30.

    For those that need it spelled out; there is a theme here….Convenience. It’s something our government stores provide, but is sadly lacking in the private sector. (save for a few select stores that may or may not be anywhere near where you are located).

  43. John;
    Thanks for you notes on our Royal Oak store and your point about other independent stores is very valid and is at the nut of my argument. Stores that don’t offer the consumer the value they are looking for should not be protected.
    Frankly I believe that there are too many private stores that are an embarrassment to our industry and only serve to provide fuel for those few that want to continue with the status quo.
    Have a good weekend.

  44. John. We probably don’t agree on very much of this debate. I find the selection at most of the Signature stores to be very poor. There are three that are better then the rest, Park Royal, Thurlow and Cambie. The rest have maybe one or two specialty selections from each portfolio.

    I find the WA and Erobertparker and the man himself to be incredible resources so I’m a bit defensive. BTW I hate wine scoring.

    When it comes to puchasing wine, it’s a bit of an obsession so I know of many ways to purchase it so your statement about poor selection south of the border just doesn’t ring true for me. My bad.

    I rarely ever complain about the price we pay for Alc. I complain about the poor service we get from the LDB in general.

  45. Thanks for penning this well written letter Jake. As you know I agree with everything. Just thought I’d put a few specifics and details down here for the naysayers. These are all verifiable facts (most can be verified online with a 1 minute search).

    1. Selection – Only the signature stores have any wines worth buying and those that are are mostly over $40. Manhattan has dozens of wine stores selling great wines across the city and, like San Francisco, has developed wine stores suited to appeal to different niches of consumers. BCLDB plays to a lowest common denominator.

    Let’s do a simple comparison. K&L has 223 wines from the Rhone in stock and 40 from alsace. Astor has 87 wines from the Rhone currently in stock and 34 from Alsace. The BCLDB is 119 wines from the Rhone and 28 from Alsace in stock across 200 stores. Astor has 1 store and K&L has 3. If you compare the number of Rhone or Alsace wines available in just one major city in the US like SF or NYC, it will far surpass the BCLDB. Even single stores best the entire provincial liquor system for selection.

    2. Prices – At the recent premium spirits release at the BCLDB, Ridgemont Reserve bourbon was sold for $75. It is $33 at Astor and K&L. When I lived down in Berkeley I regularly bought california wines for 50% of what they cost in BC. This is pretty well known. I could also go to my favourite beer store and choose from 600 different beers, sample them in store, and pay about $6 for a 22oz of amazing beer that is 1. unavailable in BC and 2. if it were available would cost $12. E.g. the Deschuttes Jubel ale that just came into the province is $30 retail. I can buy it for $10-$12 in the US.

    3. Service

    I am not in the industry, but I have personally seen small restaurant and store buyers turned away in the BCLDB stores to keep stock in for the ‘real customers’. This appears to be some sort of pretend solidarity with the proletariat everyday worker. There are already many arguments against this practice, as made above. However, I have a simple contrast to highlight the hypocracy. When a large stake house in downtown Vancouver went out of business, it returned all its wine stock to the BCLDB. The staff at The then Thurlow and Alberni store were supposed to price discount this wine at 30% and put it on the floor for ‘everyday customers’ to buy – since all of us ultimately own the system it makes sense to let a wide array of customers buy this sort of stock. These were all high end american wines.

    However, the staff was ‘too busy’ to put the stock on the floor for a couple days and when the large Italian Kitchen conglomerate came in with an offer to buy all the wine at discount in one swoop, the BCLDB workers thought ‘hey that’s easier than tagging all these wines and putting them on the floor’. The result? Lost revenue for the BCLDB for selling all the wines at a huge discount to a restaurant that would sell the wines to customers for the regular price. Do I blame Italian Kitchen? No – they had a rare opportunity to actually buy wines at a discount and make margins. But the BCLDB employees’ lazyness won out over their supposed principles this time out. And the BCLDB failed in its role to manage the product of a bankrupt licensee and find the best bidder for the liquidated assets. Pretty much no one wins in that situation.

    All the arguments about poor knowledge employees and supermarket style shopping experience have already been made. All you have to do is go into a great wine store in any city in the US to see how it should be done.

    4. Tastings, promotions and marketing

    The BCLDB has no way of informing customers of new product arriving in the store other than inane website updates with 5 new wines listed – all crap. They run tastings with plastic glasses. At the premium spirits release they were pouring $200 bourbons and scotches into 1inch diameter plastic cups. That neither respects the spirit or the customer.

    You can’t buy tickets to events online and there are very few events run at all. Compare this to the LCBO events and seminars where people are actually taught something about wine or Marquis Wine’s wine maker dinners and you realize that the BCLDB is not interested in educating consumers or building wine culture. They don’t even have a regular tasting tower in their biggest stores (compare this to the LCBO summerhill store in downtown Toronto where I got my first tastes of great wine for $1 a glass at their regular tasting tower and $4 a glass at their special weekend premium wine tastings.

    As John Clerides has already said – all of this (added to the inane regulatory system – which you can read about on Mark Hicken’s winelaw.ca website) amount to an industry where ideas come to die. Imagine any other industry where ideas and creativity are stifled to support a broken system that doesn’t make anyone happy except for the overpaid shelf stockers. Other examples of Canadian lack of competition like this include the telecommunications industry (how long did it take to get a cell phone competitor in Canada? – prices are still 2x the US), the dairy industry (go to seattle and revel in their vast selection of French, spanish and Italian cheese that our milk board prevents from entering canada for fear of competing with the big canadian dairies), etc.

    We will forever remain the nanny state if we prop up this sort of mentality. I, for one, prefer innovation and entrepeneurialism over sameness and bureaucracy.

  46. John – the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant has high prices because it is in a touristy area. It has a smallish selection because it is a small store. If you walked 10 minutes away in the less touristy south of market area you would get to Terroir (one of NOrth Americas most innovative wine stores and wine bars) or K&L – a store with a selection that dwarfs the entire BCLDB system. There are dozens of other great stores across SF, not to mention the many great stores in the east bay.

    I would also note that FPWM sells wine by the glass at just above retail prices and lets you bring in food from anywhere in the market to eat with it. This business model is illegal in BC because of the liquor laws.

  47. Shea. I agree with everything you say. Plus the one idea they had was to have all of the wines standing up. Sorry my own personal Jihad.

  48. Free market. Those are the words that keep coming to mind. Will the all-mighty “selection” reduce, yes it may. In a true Free Market environment someone will either figure out how to make money on importing obscure Alsatian and Rhone Valley wines or they won’t. Seems silly to justify subsidizing an entire industry just for selection.

    Yes, a lot of private stores suck (especially out here in Port Moody). They suck for any number of reasons: LDB mark-up, uninspired owners, lack of wine knowledge. So what – don’t shop there. I don’t.

    In a true free market economy, where the private shops imported their own products, the consumer would decide which ones survived and which ones failed. Maybe the ones that survived most would be the shops selling flavoured vodka and Yellowtail Shiraz. So be it.

    But I’m optimistic. For every 10 of those shops there would be one fine wine shop that made it by offering unique wines at a good price and great service which included educating the general public (of which most drink flavoured vodka and Yellowtail) about the amazing world of wine that awaits them.

    Of course we don’t have a free market… too many of our industries are socialized… but that’s a rant for another blog I suppose. Although I will add that buying/selling wine is not a right, healthcare is. (ok, mini rant)
    Free market people!

  49. Shea, you are missing the point. K&L may have more wines, but it is one store, a.k.a. an anomaly. No one is going to stock that amount of product and operate the same number of retail outlets as the LDB.

    Go to any private liquor store here and look at the rhone selection, it will be poor if they have any at all, which is the point.

    Everyone here bitches out the government stores. They have better selection that most private stores in BC, and are at least making an effort to offer a decent selection.

    Who in the private sector, here in BC, is doing the same? Answer: Very Few, and none are bringing us the level of K&L, so to mention it is irrelevant.

  50. It’s not irrelevant to mention K&L because the point is that this sort of store CAN’T exist in BC due to the BCLDB and government regulation. That’s the point.

    What a great discussion:)

  51. John,

    Of course every place that sells alcohol isn’t going to have a great selection, this is true in every business of every industry, private or not. Do you expect excellent, well priced food in every random restaurant? Of course you wouldn’t. Then why do you expect it at random liquor stores in Seattle/SF/Calgary? Just like anything in life, you have to do your research and find out where to go. Transplant 99% (100%?) of the LDB stores into a different city and randomly walk into them… you won’t like what you see.

    Your arguments for convenience with the LDB doesn’t really make sense either: it’s not like there will all of a sudden be a dearth of big, shitty stores that stock your favourite $12 California Cab if the LDB was privatized. I’m sure companies like Everything Wine and Liquor Depot would buy up a bunch of licenses and open a bunch of LDBesque stores, with large amounts of mass produced, boring wine that you can conveniently drink with a couple of tums whenever you want. Not only that, they may even pour you a sample of that wine before you try it. They may even give you a discount (!!) if you buy 12 of them! What a concept!

  52. I’m unclear how the fact that 1 private store bests the selection at the entire BCLDB is an anomaly. It is an example. Stores like K&L exist in every major city in the US. Your comparison is flawed for the following reasons:

    1. You compare BCLDB selection to your personal experience of US private stores. You claim that BCLDB has better selection. First, this is objectively untrue. There are many examples of private stores in the US that have better selection that the biggest BCLDB stores, as my examples already pointed out. You did not do adequate research. Second, in order to be convincing about a selection argument you have to demonstrate that you are aware of all the wines that are available here that are not available in the US and that the US has no wines that are not available here. This is also objectively untrue as anyone who has done the proper research can easily prove. Go onto the K&L website, or for a broader perspective try wine searcher, and look at the 2000+ wines available from california at various price points. Most of those don’t make it into BC. Let’s consider top CA producers that are not at any BCLDB outlets: Alban, Sine Qua Non, Pax, Saxum, Turley, Harlan, Colgin, Kapscandy, Corrison, Beckmen, Ojai, Line Collado, Philip Togni, Spottswoode, Sean Thackrey etc. etc. If you can find these wines in BC they are at private stores. In California you can either get on a mailing list, go to a auction service like Vinfolio, or simply go to a store like K&L on the release date. Oh, and they cost half the price. Pax is $45 a bottle in CA, it is $150 here (recently discounted to $90 because it cannot sell). Let’s consider BCLDB CA wines that you can’t get in California – there are 0. The top CA wines they carry, Ridge, Shafer Dominus, etc. are all available easily in SF for 1/2 the price. I could get Ridge zins for $25 at a grocery store in Berkeley. They are $50 a bottle here and only available at one of the 3 signature stores. That’s not good selection.

    2. You compare the BCLDB as a system to a single private store. You need to compare a single BCLDB store to a single private store or the entire BCLDB system to the entire private system. Not all BCLDB stores are signature stores. Most non-signature BCLDB stores have very little Rhone selection as well. e.g. Maple st store, Kerrisdale store, alma and broadway store, etc. The point is that the best private stores are better than the best BCLDB and the mediocre private stores are mostly equivalent in selection to the mediocre BCLDBs.

    3. You try to make an argument that privatization is bad by looking at bad private stores in BC vs. the entire BCLDB. What you need to do is compare the entire system now (private and public) to what a system would look like without stifling government regulation and anti-competition practices. That is the only comparison that actually matters. You use the example of private stores in a stifled system to claim that private stores in a non-stifled system would be bad. To me that is flawed logic.

  53. Shea, John and indeed everyone. This has been a great debate and one that should continue and move into the public forum. All very valid points and if you look under them what I see is that customers in BC want more bang for their buck. If bang for the buck is more selection they want it, if it is price they want them lowered, if it is cold product, store hours, boutiques, etc they want and there is no reason why it shouldn’t happen.
    The fact is that this debate does not have poltical capital.
    There is not a politician in the world that does things solely based on the merits. They are interested in tieing themselves to the horse that gets them on the right side of the voting public, while maintaining their standing with their traditional constituencies. There are no stupid politicians, just stupid decisions.
    Until 200,000 people sign a petition stating that they want a level market in B.C.’s liquor industry, nothing will happen other than colourful debate.
    Personally I believe a level playing field includes a discussion on public safety. Did you know that Liquor Inspectors are not allowed to reprimand, write up, fine, or shut down BCL employees, managers or stores. Until recently they were not even allowed into the stores?
    Did you know that the buyers at the LDB get reports on the sales of every product in province and have 100% signing authority if that product is sold in BC? This is regardless of whether it will be sold in government stores or not.
    Did you know that under the current accounting system a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka costs an BCL store $8, whereas that same bottle cost me $20, yet selling that bottle through an independent store actually delivers more money to the government than selling through their own stores.
    Level the playing field in terms of buying, price, and regulations and you will have boutiques, mass selection, product knowledge, discounts. If the LDB stores provide enough customers with the service, selection and safety to pay for themselves, they should stay open. The customer is telling us that. However if that store can’t cover its own costs it should pay the same penalty the private sector would – closing. Afterall a BCL store that loses money is losing all of us money.

  54. Also, I’m not sure where you get the idea that the BCLDB has a good Rhone selection – they have nearly 0 wines from the entire Northern Rhone and almost nothing from Gigondas, Cairanne, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, etc. In fact the BCLDB mostly just carries Chateauneuf du papes, and not even the interesting ones. They carry them because they get big points from critics. They may have a relatively deep CDP selection, but it is a piss poor overall RHone selection. There are usually only 3 whites from the entire valley on offer! That’s insane.

  55. Another point to add to Shea’s math: most of the BC’s 119 wines from the Rhone and 28 from Alsace in stock won’t be available in any one store, even one of their superstores like 39th and Cambie or Park Royal. The stock (and selection) will be spread all over the Lower Mainland.

    Case and point – tried to find some Beaujolais Cru today and have to go to 3-4 BC LDB stores to find the bottles I want.

    I’d rather have one K&L calibre store, able to play on a level playing field, than 10 neighborhood LDB stores which have piss poor selection.

  56. Nobody knows our sorrows. What else is there left to comment on. I just returned from Seattle, where as, in every past visit, I giggled and rolled my eyes [and bought some goodies that I couldn’t find back home]. It is infuriating at what we pay for some items in B.C. [‘B-leed our C- itizens] but not all products were dramatically cheaper. Even if the gas for the return drive home is half the cost, and Happy Hour offered great budgetary and gustatory treats, you still have to get there. However, such trips simply confirm what a greater range of stuff exists out there and is clumsily and obviously ignored: bitters, eaux des vies, gins, liquers, and even, Canadian Whiskeys. All were there. They are not here. The voice of our food, and more so our cocktail scene, is muted by the L.D.B.’s apathetic gag on the efforts of so many talents in our city. My only consolation is that I can drown my sorrows in twelve different rock-a-berry vodkas, or any number of fudge ripple coolers.

  57. Great Job Jake! Fantastic message! Sooo bang on!!

    OK People, now how do we get some change? It has been ridiculous long enough. besides getting everyone we know to read that letter…

  58. This argument isn’t about Rhone! Put down that third glass and try to keep up. It was just an example. I can think of any number of private stores where I can’t even find a bottle of Spanish wine. (for example…this is not changing the focus to rant about who has a superior selection of Spanish wines)

    If K&L is such a fantastic business model, someone would have tried it here….Oh wait..someone did, It’s called Everything Wine, and apparently that’s still not good enough for you lot.

    I’m going to head out now, to my local, non signature LDB store, where I can pick up some lovely Spanish wine, a good bottle of Prosecco, and perhaps some fino sherry. One stop shopping, and I can be environmentally friendly by walking there, instead of hunting all over the city, for a decent selection.

    It’s been fun bantering with you,

  59. This argument isn’t about Rhone! Put down that third glass and try to keep up. I could just as easily used Spanish wine as an example. (Just an example, i’m not suggesting we start comparing who has the best selection of Spanish wines)

    If K&L is such a good business model, then someone would have tried it here. But wait….they did…..it’s called everything wine, and it’s still not good enough for you lot.

    I’m going to head out now, to my non signature LDB store, where I can pick up some good spanish wines, a nice prosecco, and perhaps some fino sherry. I’ll also be environmental and walk there, instead of having to hunt through 3 or 4 private stores.

    It’s been fun bantering with you,

    P.S. Tony,
    The LDB used to carry a good selection of eau de vies, but they didn’t sell, same with some of the small batch Canadian whiskies, didn’t sell…but they were nice to have a discounted prices when they cleared them out.

  60. What a great read! Thanks to all that have posted.

    Shea and Tony, you have hit the point completely from so many angles. it is interesting to contemplate the fact that when shopping online at either K&L or Garagiste, I really am getting to a point where I realize that paying our duty is ridiculous, but the choice I am thus entitled by paying is so far superior, so be it.

    This is twisted I know, but when I can go down to Esquin, get a bottle of Thackery Pleaides for $24, and even with duty get it home for a total of $50ish, the overall wine experience is better.

    Sad. Time to trust our citizens and let our artisans share what they have to offer.

  61. Great Job Jake!

    John, specialty items (such as eau de vie) at the LDB don’t sell well because they are often hid behind displays of mass produced products like flavored Vodkas which are part of a company wide “image” program. These great products often get pushed aside to give the easier sells more and more shelf space. The LDB does an 80/20 every month and culls the slower movers. Given the image promotions, lack of product knowledge and untrained and dispassionate staff, inflated prices and an 80/20 system for shelf positioning it is no wonder that interesting products don’t sell.

    Big brands always get more shelf space at the government stores, and breaking into that market as a small producer or supplier is nearly impossible. At many private retailers in Vancouver, interesting, value wines often win out over little penguin or naked grape sales due to different product placement or hand sales.

    Who’s drafting the petition? I will canvas the neighborhoods.

  62. John on November. What is your deal with Rhone wines? Here is a link to the page of Rhone wines at the Marquis, a private store that has a focus on the Rhone:


    K and L has three huge locations and their business model wouldn’t work here because the LDB wouldn’t allow it. How can you compare it to the crappy Internet program Everything wine offers.

  63. Nicely done! Oh how I lust for some competition. Unfortunately they put far to much money in the Provincial coffers to change.

  64. John – insults and poor logic are definitely a good way to alienate thoughtful people, so I’m content to let people read the arguments and make up their own mind.

    Rod, I think you are right that nothing will change without a larger movement. However, it is incumbent upon the industry itself to do this. If noone is willing to put in the money and time necessary to bring this all about it won’t happen. I think one of the problems, as you well know, is also that the government divides and conquers by using the disunity of the message amongst the various parts of the liquor community as an excuse not to do anything. The question isn’t whether enough people will get on board this initiative, it is how do we get the message out there that the province is not only antiquated but is also losing tax revenues because of its crappy regulatory system. In such bad economic times do we really want to pay unionized government workers high salaries to stock shelves and lose revenue by an inefficient retail structure that is losing money and catering to big corporate brands. That’s the message we want public. But who will pay for the PR?

  65. Tony said, “The voice of our food, and more so our cocktail scene, is muted by the L.D.B.’s apathetic gag on the efforts of so many talents in our city.”

    This is very true. It’s going to be a long uphill battle, and this is something we have to realize from the get-go. You don’t hear much from a large portion of the wine community because everyone has a vested interest in the current environment. Wine reps don’t want their products blacklisted by the LDB (as pointed out by a comment from Wilf Krutzmann on ). How many of our local wine “critics” count on tastings and good will from the LDB? How many of our local Masters of Wine are either consultants for the LDB product or teach the LDB employees wine courses? How are we going to unite such a disparate group?

    Have only ever seen open criticism in the papers from Gismondi in his column. That won’t be enough.

    To top it off, the BCGEU represents 60,000 workers in BC, and don’t think for a second they won’t fight any changes to the status quo tooth & nail. Read some of the postings on the BCGEU website under the “President’s Blog”. The lies and message to the union are clear, and it’s the same illogical arguments we read in this comment thread.

    We have to unite, and we have to be a hell of a lot bigger than the BCGEU and all the sister unions they will stir up. Look at what happened in Washington State on the recent push to privatize their system. Some of the most emotional arguments seen on blogs were from those who had jobs with the current regime and fought to protect it.

    This fight won’t be for the faint of heart.

  66. Well Done. Nicely Written. Valid points across the board. “Vote 4 Jake”!

  67. I love the discussion, it proves there is a sea of discontent with our current system, they key is how do we harness this into a one coherent voice the media will pick up an report on and the government will listen to, how do we cerate that movement?

    Comments seem to mostly about service, selection and pricing, there seems to be little understanding why this is and why the industry is soporific. The Japanese have an expression, Kaizen, it means go see for yourself, this allows one to uncover problems in any line of business. The problem with our liquor laws lies from within, our policies are rooted in pre-prohibition mentality of control; better not allow people to express their ideas as it will create chaos versus other systems which allow you to express your ideas, but step outside them (laws) and you pay the price. As I have mentioned before ideas are against the law in British Columbia.

    On my blog I posted the basic root of one of the major issues, the speculative wine system, this is one of the major roots of accessing quality wines, if have not had a chance to read it here it is again.

    October is small business month in BC; the Liberals are barnstorming the province trying to sell the people on HST and how small business is the backbone of the province.

    On October 12th, 2010 Mark Hicken and I attended a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon, the Minister of Small Business the Honourable Iain Black was the guest speaker. This was the first time I heard him speak and he seemed like a genuinely nice guy; in fact one of the lady’s sitting at our table worked for him and independently confirmed this.

    The attendees were allowed to ask the minister a question as long as they filled it out on a card and handed it to one of the staff member’s board of trade. The minister only had time to answer two questions and one of them was ours. The question Mark and I posed was, What is the minister doing to update our antiquated liquor laws, please not, nowhere in the question did we ask anything about reducing the governments mark up of 123%.

    His answer amused us in that he said the sale of alcohol nets the province some 890 million dollars year, which pays for our infrastructure, nice answer but that was not my question. Allow me to give you one example of our antiquated policies.

    Say an importer has a $35.00 bottle of wine available on the liquor store shelves and that wine is popular with the local restaurants. In this economy, and quite frankly any economy, cash is king. Being a prudent operator said restaurateur buys three or four bottles at a time just enough to last the weekend and to suite his budget.

    The liquor board classifies that sale from their shelves as a wholesale sale not a retail sale. Take a moment and ponder this, said restaurant has to buy the wine off the liquor store shelves and pay full retail for the wine, they get no wholesale price, yet the liquor board classifies that sale as wholesale.

    The liquor board monitors sales and sees the importer is selling more wine to restaurants than to consumers, aren’t they kind of the same? As a result of the liquor boards wholesale retail policy the importer loses the shelf listing for his $35.00 bottle of wine and it is moved to wine purgatory, a speculative listing.

    This is where a wine sits in a bonded warehouse, it is only available for restaurants and private stores, and the wine has to be ordered by the case. Not such a big deal you think, well this is where the sheers stupidity of our system rears it ugly head.

    Remember cash is king in today’s economy. That $35.00 bottle of wine is shipped in cases of 12, that same restaurateur now has to buy a full case of wine which costs him $420.00 versus the $105.00 he was spending, essentially 4 times as much.

    A couple of things happen, he stops buying the wine and looks for something else on the liquor store shelves he can replace it with, a short term solution as the wine they replace it with will become popular and become a speculative item and the cycle starts all over again. Or he complains to the importer suggesting the importer ships the wine in six packs so it can become more affordable.

    On the surface a logical solution but wait this an inflationary measure. You see it costs the same to ship a case of twelve as it does a case of six, for the sake of this discussion let us say shipping is $15.00 a case.

    The cost for shipping a twelve pack is $1.25 a bottle versus $2.50 a bottle for the six pack, twice the price. Compounded with the liquor boards 123% markup the price for that $35.00 wine becomes $39.00 a bottle.

    In his presentation the minister was very proud when he highlighted the elimination of some 171,000 rules and regulations, which resulted in, increased productivity and found revenue.

    Hey minister, look over here, there are efficiencies you can find in our antiquated, cumbersome system which will not cost the government a dime, he just chose not to answer me, a pity indeed.

    One solution would be for importers to be able to access their warehouse, pick up and deliver orders to restaurants, which Ontario is allowed to do, but BC importers cannot. The main reason why is that it will affect BC liquor stores Key Performance Indicators (KPI’S) these are measurements used by businesses to monitor their performance, sales per square foot, sales per employee etc.

    If an importer were to serve his client by delivering wine directly to them this would adversely affect liquor store sales KPI’s, as the sale would not go through an individual store even though at the end of the day the money generated still goes into provincial coffers.

    Another solution would be to allow private stores to sell speculative wines to restaurants, this would allow restaurants to populate their wine lists with interesting wines they could purchase by the bottle, again against the law.

    We currently have no auction system for wines in British Columbia. Great cities like London, New York, Paris, Chicago; Los Angels have auctions systems for trading fine wine. Venerable companies like Christies, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Farr Vintners, some of who have been in business for over 200 years all buy and trade and sell wine on the open market. The Neederburg wine auction in South Africa attracts buyers from around the world, as does the Napa Valley Wine Auction, Napa Premier the list goes on.
    We have none of this is BC, and no the wine festival does not count.

    I am on the street every day, the amount of wine bought and sold on the black market is significant, government collects zero revenues form these types of activities.

    Private stores are not allowed to buy wines from personal cellars and re-sell them. Just imagine if we had some type of online auction system where someone could sell a cellar, this dear reader is also against the law. Just imagine if we decided to make British Columbia the wine destination capital of Canada in all aspects of wine.

    Expansion of ones private liquor store is against the law, let me explain. As I outlined above the speculative wine system is broken, it takes weeks for wines and prices are inflated due to shipping and storage costs.

    An owner of a say 1000 square foot liquor store wishes to expand, but the leases for the stores beside them are not available, they wish to increase their inventory and store their wine offsite so they do not have to reply on the speculative wine system. But wait, they are not allowed to do so as it is against policy to store wine off site, thus expansion, or success is against the law.

    The solution would be of course to open a larger store, but the city of Vancouver has done their utmost to not allow this. You see they have divided the city into shopping districts they have also classified stores into an class ‘A’ and a class ‘B’ store and only permit one of each in a shopping district. If said owner finds a new spot in or outside these boundaries the city has created they are out of luck, they cannot expand their business.

    Service is against the law in BC. One very high profile caterer received a warning letter from liquor licensing, why, they were going to the liquor store collecting and paying for clients orders, applying and paying for their special occasion license and delivering it to them, sounds reasonable yes? A service provided to and for clients yes? Not in the eyes of liquor licensing, it seems this is bootlegging and they were threatened with a $100,00.00 fine.

    The BCLDB changes the rules as it suites them, I have documentation going back to 1999 on this. In 1998 I had the opportunity to enter into the Bordeaux futures market, not a great vintage, but this was the first time I was able to access any of the top wines.

    The wines arrived in 1999; I priced the wines according to the ad valoreum formula at the time of 110%, which all wines are marked up with. The LDB also ordered futures, however they priced the exact same wines as I ordered at a 25% discount. I looked like a bandit, even though I was playing by, what I thought at the time, the same rules. Business lesson number one; when you are the bully in the playground, you can do what you want.

    You see the LDB also knew it was a poor vintage and they wanted to sell through the wines so they lowered the markup, they did this with the 2007 vintage too, which I did not order as it was a so-so vintage with high prices and I knew the LDB would lower the markup.

    Naturally I complained, the LDB did not want to give me the difference, their logic was that I knew the vintage was poor, and the French Franc was high and that we should share in the price difference. This went back and forth and eventually I received a full refund

    The latest example of this was with the wines from Angelo Gaja. Six years Mr. Gaja was in town and we hosted an in store tasting of his wines and we sold a significant amount of wine. Last year I contacted the importer and asked if I could do a special order on his wines so I could offer them out to my clients. I received an email back from said importer informing me the LDB buyer, David Hopgood, has no problem with me doing a special order but wanted to let me know he had pricing discretion. This meant my prices would be more than his and I would look like a bandit. This cost me over 30k in potential sales, thank you LDB.

    Firefly Wines on Cambie Street is a great little shop, Bruno does a great job running the store. They also have an Enomatic wine-dispensing machine. This nifty little machine preserves and dispenses wines for clients to taste, the machine can hold up to 12 different wines and can cost up to $20,000 for some of the bigger models. Liquor licensing walked into Firefly and told them that they had to serve wine in plastic glasses not Riedel as they were serving them in, a client could only receive two one ounce samples at a time, not four 1/2 samples, they could only open two different wines and that they had to pour out the samples at the end of the night. They of course threaded them with fines if they did not comply.

    I tweeted some wine friends, the story went viral and eventually Anthony Gismondi wrote about it.
    Liquor licensing has since backed away from this moronic policy and is rethinking it – thinking could be dangerous but lets see what happens.

    A year or so ago I approached Liberty and Everything Wine to host a wine tasting to promote our wine stores, oops cant do that either, as we are not allowed to host wine festivals. In Oregon wineries can sell their wine at farmers markets, can’t do that here either.

    There is no use in complaining about bad service, hell I am sure customers in my shop have received indifferent service. One has to drill down and see why we are the way we are and I hope I have been able to highlight some of the issues as to why we have such an different wine culture.

    If people are serious about change and by reading all the responses to Jakes article people are certainly pissed off. There is something we can do and I will keep you posted as to what is going on.

  68. Great thing that Jake is raising this issue. Rod is right – it has no political capital at the moment but this is an issue I think most British Columbians would support. Why are we doing this to ourselves: keeping in place a system that denies us choice and punishes us for enjoying the simple pleasures of a civilized society. Spending any amount of time in Seattle (or even better, Portland or California) or even Alberta we can see the benefits of a simpler and more decentralized system.

    I, for one, will support any movement to draw public attention to this issue.

  69. I love me some good beer, but when I have to pay $6-12 for a 650 mL bottle, all bets are off. I got back into homebrewing and can make that same bottle for about $1 to $1.50. BCLDB can ‘suck it’ with their temperance era laws and grabby taxing hands.

  70. Shea & WCVR;
    I have been in the industry in BC for over 20 years. First in restaurants and hotels, then as an agent and now, finally, as an independent retailer. Throughout that time it has always been agreed that the industry should band together to make substantive change. I was even a part of a meeting in 2003 with Rich Coleman where he said “we will do anything the industry as a whole asks for.”
    I believe there is consensus that the current is broken and doesn’t work for anyone save the BCGEU employees. Even senior management at the LDB agree that if they had the chance to re-build the system they would not re-build it as it is today.
    Here is the problem. The industry has an incredible inability to see the forest through the trees. Rather they all come to the table with their own agenda and do not agree with any proposal that does not see their agenda furthered.
    A strategy going forward will have to have the blessing of the industry but I think it would be a mistake to let the industry be the vanguard.
    I believe that what begins as a grass roots initiative ends up with some serious industry and political clout. Witness the Tea Party in the US.
    Starting a twitter/facebook/petition campaign will get the engine going. From there, with clear and concise goals in mind we leverage the credibility of the campaign to those industry and political partners that will and carry out our specific demands.
    That’s my two cents.

  71. I see the problem as one of distribution within the “wholesale” program. Product that the LDB won’t put on the floor and take up shelf space shouldn’t be handled at store level. Leave the 123% mark up alone for the moment, probably a fight that we can’t win. Agencies warehouse and distribute wholesale product themselves. Government stores have hiring freeze and over time natural thinning of staff. A few years down the road, with the visible cost savings of semi-privatization, the discussion of proper whole sale pricing can be revisited. The guys at store level don’t want to be dealing with restaurants and product they don’t actively sell. Restaurateurs would rather deal with agents that would be able to offer service. The ones who I see suffering are the agents. One question I have is would the cost of agents warehousing themselves be that much different than costs at Containerworld, especially for product that doesn’t move as quickly?

  72. If you read my previous post I spoke to Ian Tostenson 4 years ago on all these matters, he strung me out, absolutely nothing.

  73. They have done noting, i spoke to them over four years ago on the matter

  74. Rod, fair enough, but who is going to pay for all this? To me that’s the real crux of the problem. The Tea Party has massive funding behind it.

  75. Fair warning: if you dare style whatever movement comes from this as “inspired by the Tea Party”, I will quit drinking and fight you all, tooth and nail, to the end of my unhappy days.

  76. Entertaining letter, clever and well-written. Kudos.

    I haven’t purchased wine, spirits or beer from the BCLDB in I don’t know how long. Selection, price, lack of knowledgeable staff… you choose. After a decade in Vancouver, I now live in BC’s wine country and have a few clients who pay me in booze. Best business decision I ever made. (damn, now I’ll have to declare it as income…)

    The last places I purchased wine other than through winery direct were in Calgary at The Cellar and Metrovino, and through John at Marquis Wine Cellars in Vancouver.

    Why? People at these shops know their stuff. I want a guide, not someone who thinks Heineken is for a special occasion. (and now I’ve ticked off the Heineken drinkers)

    I’m excited there’s so much talk about this. As someone part of a group of people trying to woo the Wine Bloggers Conference to the Okanagan in 2012, I’ve gotta be optimistic. There is no alternative.

    I’ll be chatting with John Clerides, and will get involved however I can to help lobby for change – over a glass or two of whatever he recommends, of course. John’s one hell of a good guide.

  77. Where to begin….I have been a wine buyer for over 25 years on behalf of both Ontario and BC restaurateurs. I have to say that everything expressed so far is unfortunately spot on.
    Having travelled extensively, I’ve often shook my head and “heard the marbles clicking,” comparing the prices of wines elsewhere to what we are taken hostage for in these 2 provinces. It’s outright highway robbery and it’s getting worse every year. It’s no wonder people are feeling ripped off in restaurants. This monopoly reminds me of Bell Canada in the days of it’s power when rates for long distance sometimes cost the price of rent. We had no choice…at that time, until finally, competition was allowed. We are supposedly in a country of “free enterprise,” it’s time for us to make a change and not wait any longer. It’s great to see that there are enough people who feel the same way. I have even had difficulty between the LCBO and the BCLDB in importing BC wines to Ontario and Ont wines to BC to support Canadian wines in restaurants. I had an easier time importing privately from Italy! This is just wrong. Canadians need to take a stand, this ultimately affects our tourism as well, and the comment regarding the Olympics said it all. I can’t tell you how many times I was embarrassed by visitors to Canada who look at you like you’re on crack when they see our winelist prices. Having to explain ad nauseum about how our liquor is controlled by the gov’t was not a particularly enjoyable part of being a restaurateur. Recently, I approached management of the LDB and asked why we haven’t seen a break in prices- our dollar is worth twice of what it was in the the States 2 years ago, why are we seeing an increase? The buying power for the board has increased and they line their pockets while our industry suffers during a compromised economy. We need to follow the lead of Washington State.

  78. Shea
    I think that this can all start very simply. Let’s get a Facebook page and twitter account rolling. Once it hits 500 -750 likes we set up a petition and account. All who want to can contribute $5 and that should get a good enough budget rolling. It should be enough to have industry and political types see some merit to attach their wagons to the movement.

    ScoutMagazine- I didn’t mean to scare you. I used the Tea Party example not for its ideals, rather for its humble beginnings.

    No matter how it starts, every milestone must be met with clear and concise goals that are easily communicated in sound bites. No political movement has ever won because it was correct; they win because they have an easy to understand and sticky message.

  79. Chris;

    What you are pointing is another challenge that most don’t see. At issue is not LDB or Container World, but having a monopoly supply chain vs a competitive one.
    By shutting down the LDB distribution system you only create a bigger problem by having ContainerWorld own the system, and that will get very very expensive.
    Instead I believe the goal is eliminating the stanglehold that both the LDB and ContainerWorld have on the supply chain, and replace it with a truly competitive system. First step would be to eliminate the LDB veto on who can have a federally provided bonded warehouse. Rather this should go through the LCLB or any other organization that is not the LDB.

  80. It’s been 17 years since I had the pleasure of crafting a interesting wine list. If it weren’t for some of the wine reps enthusiasm I would have gone mad navigating the LCB. I can’t count how many times desired items were inexplicably “delisted” or delayed..again..and again.
    What happend to “service”!!
    I have not given up on Wine and hope it never comes to that but I am glad not to have to run the gauntlet anymore.
    In objection to the blog..I did find a rare commodity a knowelegable LCB employee who will be missed..Happy Retirement Tom

  81. I would love to contribute the this campaign, from the supplier end of things… the concerns that you are all voicing are only those felt from within the province. The repercussions of these issues are felt far beyond the provincial borders of BC…

    It doesn’t seem to matter which portion of the industry one is involved in, no one escapes the sting of the liquor board. And I offer a big hearty thank you to everyone who is putting efforts into making some serious changes within the existing system.

    Perhaps someone could notify me when there is some sort of format organized to make our voices heard, and counted. I’ll be the first to put my name, and my companies name on a petition for positive change.

  82. How can the system be improved that makes it much better and counters the arguments of the Liquor Board that selection would decline. We need regulation but effective regulation. How about doing baby steps at first by opening up slowly and picking on really silly rules that just cannot be supported. Tie in with another campaign such as No Fun Vancouver that our archaic wine laws are effecting our tourism industry in general! Is Vancouver really worth visiting if its no fun! (have a facebook and twitter campaign to this effect tied into liquor regulation ) Will Seattle residents come to Vancouver knowing that the wine selection is so poor and expensive. Make it so the government has to weigh loss of tourism revenue with the hassle of tinkering with our current system. Look into whether some rules could be challenged on charter and constitutional grounds and have an association test challenge the law where it makes sense. Buying out of Province wine might be challenged based on inter-provincial free trade.

    Get involved in politics at the city and Provincial level and let your views be known.

    Be fair in your arguments, can Vancouver cannot really be compared to NY and Seattle.

  83. I know away of having more wine selection in Vancouver restaurants is by allowing bring your own bottle and charging a stocking fee. This is allowed in Portland. Is this against the BC Liquor Board rules as well?

    Customers buy their wine in the USA and can drink in Vancouver restaurant at a reasonable fee

  84. This response is incredible, thank you Jake for initiating this discussion, a topic which is top of mind for many of us.

    I am all for entrepreneurship and a free open market, however dismantling the LDB without a viable solution that considers agendas of businesses and the public could be a disaster. The timing for this movement to take place is now, especially with the injured provincial government and the publics anger over the HST, and being treated like juveniles with the new driving laws.

    A facilitated discussion with representatives of all concerned parties could be beneficial in creating a strategy and hopefully a solution to this antiquated system we try to navigate through.

    If privatization is indeed the answer, it’s extremely important that the transition is well planned and executed. We can all rant on and bitch about the problem, however presenting a fair solution needs some solid heads coming together to create a concise plan of action. This may not necessarily mean taking liquor profits out of the tax purse, which we all benefit from, but reforms to spread this wealth amongst those who participate – and most importantly to protect and cultivate connoisseurship, which I think is at te heart of this discussion.

    I support ‘positive change’, and am happy to help.

  85. I believe the current government started the process of fixing things and allowing more private stores including allowing them to see spirits. It just seems that it was only a half measured fix. I think the current government is more inclined to impose the fixes we want then the opposition party would be. The way things are currently going it would be best to mount the campaign for change immediately instead of waiting for a new government.
    Personally I have no issue with the province controlling the distribution of liquor, but getting out of the retail sector. Treat restaurants the same as smaller retailers and give large retailers an even larger discount. Eliminating some of the requirements would certainly help as well. Best of all the government can continue reaping money in while still making it easier on the rest of us.

  86. I’m very surprised the BCRFA isn’t in top gear on this. If they aim to represent the interests of British Columbian restaurants, they should be leading the fight. What gives?

  87. If you read my previous post about the BCFRA being on board, lack of vision would be the most diplopmatic at this point in time. i

  88. What’s the big surprise here? BC was throwing a party but didn’t want anybody to party (remember the cops going around, shutting liquor stores and pouring out drinks because they were afraid of riots during the Olympics?).

    Or then during the playoffs, in fear of the mob taking to the streets the VPD did the same crap yet again. Meanwhile in Montreal where some idiots actually DID set cars on fire the cops made it clear they won’t tolerate it but not jackboot anybody else in the process.

    Or the new “warning range” the LIEberals introduce.

    There’s a theme here, I wish those idiots would have the guts to do what they want to do: Bring back prohibition, maybe then the sheeple would realize how they’d been had, but I am not holding my breath.

  89. Just to keep things interesting here is a comment re: LDB store employees. They should not all be tarred with the same dirty brush. I have met many over the years and many of them are very fine people. Who among you would turn down $20 an hour if that is what your union has successfully bargained for?
    Answer as far as BCGEU is concerned? Offer the employees a chance to buy or take over the lease of the store they are working in, Put up or shut up!
    And don’t think for one minute that Constellation Brands and their Canadian cohorts, Vincor, would not be watching this . They will get their legal departments out in full force and dirty politics will come out in full force. Yes, get a legal defense fund established because it will become interesting and possibly messy.

  90. I have to agree with the previous post. There are some outstanding people who work for the board, they have helped me immensely over the year’s, Shelley Olsen, Barb Dunlop, Woody at store 100 and many more.

    Government and policy makers have not kept up with the times, social change or even a business plan to make BC a wine destination province, it is simply too much work, it is easier for them to just say no. If the film, bio-tec, or any other high profile industry were treated like ours it would be on the front page of every newspaper.

  91. John,
    After living in BC for 10 years and then spending the last 4.5 in Calgary, I have to disagree with your comment on selection and pricing. Next time, check out Metrovino, Bin 905, Richmond Hill, Kensington Wine Market, J. Webb or The Wine Shop. These are just a few stores with amazing selection and very knowledgeable staff.

  92. Further to what I said last night, which for some reason seems not to have made it into this discussion, I should add that I don’t mean for a minute mean to suggest that there are not serious problems with the liquor, wine, and beer distribution system in this province. I mean only to say that the proposed solution of privatizing the whole system is facile and has not the remotest chance of success even with the current right-of-centre government, much less the NDP, should they get elected next time round.

    How about a discussion which is a little less strident and a little more focused on solutions which may have some reasonable chance of implementation?

    [Note to webmaster: I am assuming that what I wrote last night, bad tempered though it was (sorry, I was in a mood), got skipped from publication by a mere oversight. It would be unfortunate indeed if comments other than those which support a particular position were eliminated from the discussion. If I’m doing something wrong, would you mind telling me?}

  93. None of you will know me, but I used to be in the business in British Columbia. I left it about seven years ago. (Why let the LDB age me prematurely?) But I’ve maintained an interest, and I’ve read or skimmed most of the posts in this forum.

    What strikes me is that the commentators seem not to understand why the existing anachronisms—the Liquor Distribution Branch and the Liquor Licence Branch—continue and prevail. So let’s look at the reasons:

    1. Inertia. People bitch, but do little else.
    2. It is in the LDB’s interest to survive.
    3. It is in the interest of the domestic wine industry, supported and subsidized as it is, to see the existing system continue.
    4. It is in the interest of the hard liquor industry to see the LDB continue as it is,
    given the shelf space benefits and minimal distribution costs it enjoys
    5. It is in the interest of some old-guard import agents—those who have been cosy with the LDB for years and have profited from it—to see the LDB survive.
    6. It is in the interest of warehouser and quasi-distributor ContainerWorld (does Dennis Chrismas even own a truck?) to see the LDB survive.
    7. Finally, the government sees political benefit (contributions, seats, pacification) in the continuance of the LDB as is, and an administrative/political downside to privatization.

    In order to better understand how ridiculous the current system is one has to put it into context of government as a whole. I view the LDB is simply a tax collection agency. It’s ultimate purpose is to take from the consumer and give to the government. While it was said early on that through privatization the government could save the LDB’s annual operating expenses of $300,000,000, that is not particularly meaningful. A better way to quantify the LDB’s financial impact would be to assess its efficiency as a tax collection agency.

    During the last fiscal year (2009/10) the LDB sent to the government’s consolidated revenue fund its net income of $877,000.000. That represented less than 2.4 per cent of the government’s total revenues ($37,600,000,000) from taxation and other sources. The LDB has 3,500 full- or part-time employees.
    Therefore, the collection of a tiny portion of government revenues required
    the employment of 3,500 persons in a provincial real estate empire valued at
    God-knows-how-much (admitedly much of the empire is leased, not owned).

    Draw this to the attention of government ministers and they offer non-answers (we need the revenue to support our social programs, etc.) No one in government has, or can, provide a supportable argument for the existence or continuance of the Liquor Distribution Branch and it monopolistic practices, for it can readily be shown that tax revenues would be increased through privatization.

    I won’t deal with the Liquor Licence Branch here. It’s little more than a linear, anal agency in the hands of linear, anal bureaucrats.

    So in this forum many have dwelt on reforms. Tweak this, tweak that, and the
    LDB service would be markedly improved, etc. Eke out concessions, etc. A lawyer has challenged its disregard of administrative law and the Constitution Act but offers no response. Most everyone seems to believe the industry and the province would be better for its demise.

    But no one has said how to effect it.

    Here is how it won’t be done: by vocal appeals for sanity, by petitions, by traditional lobbying, by Facebook groups, or any of the other band-aid solutions mentioned heretofore. Go back to the first six items above—therein are all the counter-forces.

    Here’s how it can be done: by putting whatever effort and funds you can muster into political arena (see item seven), and the opportunity to do that is on the doorstep.

    John Clerides knows a bit of my background in government and politics. When I see him next, for what it’s worth I’ll give him my view on the political route to follow (if he’ll follow through on the lunch he’s promised me.) But at the moment I’m in Paris, land of the vinous free.

  94. Hi Adrian, I don’t see a comment from you in our spam filter and there are none in the publication queue. Any chance you forgot to hit send? We aren’t in the business of suppressing opinion here!

  95. Bob;

    Your experience and highlights are valuable, however I to have been dealing with this mess for multiple years; currently we have been engaged in the poltical process via frequent meetings.
    I believe that you have to change the game. The political game has been the same for 30 years and if we try to play by their rules, you predictions will come true.
    Any effective change will have to come from outside the system where they (those mentioned in items 1-6) are not expecting it. It will need to have nurses, teachers, poverty groups, industry people, servers, independent store employeess, suppliers, and like minded agents, messaging tiny bits of relevant and thought provoking information, that once collected will force the establishment to be on the defensive while getting others to ask the question – Yeah why is that!
    I love your ‘Tax collector’ point and that should be a part of the daily messaging lexicon.

  96. Bob, I have been making your argument for almost 2 years now, but no one in the industry seems to want to pony up the money for that sort of effort and most seem to be fixed on a ‘consumer driven’ solution. I agree with you completely that a real chance of reform costs money and requires an actual political effort. I agree that facebook campaigns etc. will not work on their own and that you cannot ‘create’ grassroots campaigns – you can only provide the opportunity for such campaigns to arise (note that it’s a lot easier to get people to agree that a new tax is bad than it is to agree on a complex list of regulatory reforms). There is also a lot of misperception about the system out there by the public, which is a huge barrier.

    Adrian, I think you are referring to a comment you left on my website, which was published there. I agree with you that full privatization is not easy. However, my aim in making a privatization argument (and likely Jake’s) is not that it is the practical solution, but that it is the ideal solution, at least for me as a consumer without an interest in the industry.

    Real solutions are important, but, as I have experienced, once the niggling begins over which rules to reform, etc., and when that discussion includes the BCLDB and multiple disparate private interests, the classic divide and conquer political tool generally works to disperse the industry and prevent any real change. I’ve seen that for years, and I’m sure those with a lot of experience in the industry have seen it for decades.

  97. For what it’s worth, Bob Exell obviously knows the structure of the industry very well and the political landscape that surrounds it. As he succinctly points out, there are large players who like things exactly the way they are – and they make a lot of large political donations. Bob is right … the best way to effect change is for those with a more progressive viewpoint to rally together and create a powerful unified political force. Maybe this discussion will be the starting point for that.

  98. I think it’s very naiive to think that dispatching the current government will be the first step in reforming this problem. Does anyone really think that either Carol James or the third party alternative led by Bill VanderZalm and a bunch of old timers is the answer. So where should our funds go in the political arena Mr Exel?

    In my opinion the only way to make a retail entity take notice is to stop buying from them. We should support the private stores despite their shortcomings. Although the profits will still go into the pockets of the LDB the BCGEU would get the message. It seems like a more effective way then sending our money to the NDP or the “third party”.

    BTW. I have nothing to gain here as I’m not ITB and I know John Clerides has a lot to loose with his stand and I respect him for that. What about the rest of you ITB folks. Do you really want to do something or is it just sour grapes or opportunism?

  99. It was not my contention that defeating the current government would be a solution. Regardless, in the volatile world of politics, nothing can be discounted.
    But anyone who has any political awareness whatsoever should recognize
    a few of these realities: (a) Carole James will not be the NDP leader at
    the time of the next election in 2013; (b) the NDP has evolved, and continues to evolve, away from the hard left as we remember it; it needs the independent and centrist vote; (c) there will be a third party in the fray next go-round.
    In February of 2011, if not before, the Liberals will have a new leader. Whoever he or she may be, the premier will be guaranteed just two years of power. The likelihood is that the premier will seek re-election. To form a government that requires, at the least, a plurality of the members of the House.
    But many of the ridings currently held by the Liberals are tenuous holds indeed. Witness the fact that the first recall campaign being staged by Vander Zalm, et al, is in an island riding where the incumbent won by fewer than 600 votes.
    It is that vulnerability which will install the greatest fear in the mind of the premier and the Liberal party in 2013, tied, as it will be, to the complication of the presence of a vote-splitting centre-right third party (the Conservatives?)
    Ergo, it should not be too difficult for you to figure out where the effort and funds should be directed.
    Of course should the premier and the Liberal party see merit in the cause you espouse, your effort and funds could be redirected.

  100. I definitely believe that any grassroots movement will be predicated on the success of championing key words like “tax collector” and “free market” rather than “selection” or “Speculative Wine Orders”.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, most people don’t drink fine wine (sad as that may be). But focus the reform on saving tax dollars and less government intervention in business and you’ll get traction with Joe Public. Everyone can relate to government waste. All political parties want to be on the “right” side of that movement these days.

    The details of what to do with Specs and Supply Chains can be worked out by industry insiders after the attention of the government is attained.

    Not to say that making the key issue about wasteful tax collection will make it any easier, only that we may hit a wider audience. We can learn from what went on in the Washington State proposition. Big liquor companies were funding the religious groups that were the public opposition to the privatization reform proposal. Costco was the main funding power behind the reform… maybe they could be here too? But that would mean wine shops like Marquis would have to share the retail space with the big box stores – are they willing?

    How far are people willing to go to get traction on this issue? I doubt the public would get behind inter-industry squabbles about changing how Spec Orders are placed. If that’s the only type of change people here want then it will remain a topic just for concerned parties like this thread.

  101. I disagree Liam. We pay a lot of taxes and get a huge bureaucracy because of it. That may be a seperate issue. I think it’s fair that we pay higher taxes/markups on things like liquor and cigarettes. Until we trim the fat we have to pay for these things somehow.

    I think we need ot recieve better service for that huge tax burden we accept. The problem is with how the system is managed. It’s no different then other ministries and starts at the ADM level and runs through the employees and management consultants that run the departments.

    I also believe that the people of BC would see this as a minor problem compared to the problems in the Ministries of Health, Education, Children and Families, or the Environment. So I’m not sure there is an answer other then a grassroots, special interest campaign.

  102. David & Liam;
    It becomes a big issue when you consider that this government and the one to follow will be telling the population of BC that it is more important to pay someone to scan a bottle of vodka than 1) have enough social workers so that foster care kids don’t get abused 2) providing enough funding to the Vancouver School Board 3) provide enough funding to reduce school class sizes 4) reduce or eliminate wait times for MRI’s, knee replacement surgery, biopsies, hip replacement surgery 5) tax cuts/rebates to the middle class and working poor 6) Affodable Housing 7) funding for arts and culture 8) pay off the debt 9) reduce HST to 10%.
    The money is there and is tied up in a system that doesn’t provide the return on the investment in terms of social or fiscal progress.
    The caveat here is that each one of the above noted items is on the hit list with major BC Unions. There is an agreement in BC between big labour that one will not argue a case that sees the other lose membership.
    For example the BCTF, HEU or CUPE will not petition the government to re-direct funds if it potentially will cost the BCGEU members.
    Therefore these arguments are not only gamechangers but must be made outside of the current arena.

    Another issue that I have seen touched on too much is the one about public safety. The current system is supported in part by the argument that further expansion of the private sectore, conversely a retraction of the public sector, reduces public saftey when it comes to alcohol. This will have to be debunked in a public forum before any of the practical arguments will stick.

    I have an idea if anyone wants to hear about it.


  103. “I think we need to receive better service for that huge tax burden we accept. The problem is with how the system is managed. ”

    David, honestly I think we’re saying the same thing. I made no mention to removing the taxation of liquor but rather that the public would get behind a move to make the collection of that tax more efficient by removing the unnecessary bureaucracy that plagues the BCLDB.

    And yes, this is a minor problem compared to education, healthcare and the environment. No argument from me on that point.

  104. Liam;

    As a group independent liquor stores are being attacked for a lack of diligence when it comes to underage drinking.
    In addition we will see the BCGEU ads and News Releases stating the large price discrepancy between Independent and Public Liquor Stores.
    In both cases we end up being on the defensive as they have taken the lead in the discussion. It is the same tactic that the Republicans use in the US.
    I suggest that as a group we hire secret shoppers to go to public and independent stores and check for compliance. We can let the independents know the rough time frame but not who. The results, I suspect will show that independent stores are more diligent than public stores.
    I suggest that we do the same thing with pricing. Suggest 10 -15 items, let the independents know.
    The result in both cases is that we are in front of the issue and they are on the defensive.
    Consider how much easier the discussion of levelling the playing field will be if the politicians and public see that independent retailers are more diligent at public saftey and indeed offer the customer better bang for the buck… in most cases.

  105. Rod,

    When do private stores offer better bang for your buck? Nearly any product that is at both RANDOM PRIVATE STORE and the LDB, the LDB’s price is going to be better.

    Am I missing something?

  106. I have noted from the comments that the focus of discussion is based primarily on wine, and the overall discussion on achieving change. I am just chiming in to point out that those of us who sell beer in BC are facing the same challenges and barriers. I assume that any serious discussion of reform will cover all aspects of the liquor industry, and not just be driven by people from one area or another.
    I am very interested in taking part in any face to face discussions that come from this.

    Gerry Erith
    Brewery Creek Liquor Store

  107. Rod,
    That’s an interesting idea. I’ve always wondered about the so-called stats of private LRS vs Gov’t store’s compliance with ID checks, and public safety is definitely something that the public will make into an issue.
    Love to see where this goes, and the eventual result.

    Kyle: Bang for your buck is more than just a price tag.

    Regarding price: Why is it that people always think the gov’t price is “absolutely the best price” that can be had anywhere? In fact, this price is based on the government’s insane markup, and if the retail side were privatized, there would probably be better prices all around. Right now private stores (Everything Wine aside) receive just 16% discount to do all the incredible things they do: staff & public education, participation in public events (BeerFest etc), sourcing of new products, contests and sponsorships etc etc. Of course they have to mark things up…what business survives on such small margins?

    People shop at different grocery stores for different reasons, right? Not just at one store because they “have the lowest price”. Why should it be any different for liquor stores?

  108. Kyle;

    I will grant you this- many independent stores are premised on the 7-11 model, but there is a growing contingent that offers better than government pricing on a number of items. The strategy behind this is simple; build customer count and long term customer loyalty.
    To do this two things must happen 1) the store must have at least 3000 sq. ft. & 2) ownership will need to have the vision to see it through as to begin with it is a money losing proposition.
    Speaking from the perspective of a independent store operator who has worked hard and invested hard to achieve customer credibility on price I can honestly say that it is a more profitable strategy.
    I will also grant you that on the mainland there have not been many LRS operators that have wanted to compete with the LDB. In fact it seems that most have been happy to fall into line behind ABLE and work towards forcing LRS operators to becoming 7-11’s and not liquor stores.
    Here on the Island you will find 9 of the top 20 LRS’s. In fact, in the Greater Victoria area 60% of the wine business, 60% of the beer and 45% of spirit business is conducting through LRS stores.
    Why throw the pric issue out there? because it is yet another rung that the Government and BCLDB cling to as a reason for existing.
    I know this is a bit of rant and I apologize but it is about time that if we want real change that we lessen the grip the BCGEU has on emotive issues of Public Saftey and Price.

  109. Rod – thanks for your very insightful comments. I still question the viability of a purely consumer based campaign, but I think your points regarding putting the liquor retailing operations money to better use in education or health is not just a great strategy, but also just a sensible idea.

    These comments have been fantastic and I’ve learned much from them I didn’t already know even after quite a bit of research. I think that despite the disparate perspectives here there is clearly a common thread. The momentum is good now as is the political situation. I am happy to work with anyone who has a positive solution for change that is truly bi-partisan and good for consumers and private retailers. I look forward to working with as many of you as possible in the future. If you’d like to get in touch, just ask John Clerides for my contact information (I’d post email here but would like to avoid spam).

  110. I have been waiting for the 2006 Faiveley Mazis Chambertin since September. I now find out from the agent that the assholes at the BCLDB allocated everything to their Signature stores. Who the f*&k do they think they are???

  111. As well-written as this article is, and with as many great points and alternatives it brings up, it (and everyone commenting in favour of privatization here) unfortunately misses the point: privatizing liquor distribution, retail, etc., won’t do anything about the provincial liquor tax, which is clearly the source of the pricing problem here in BC. What it WILL do is put more money into the hands of a few individuals, e.g. private liquor store owners, rather than direct liquor revenues to the residents of BC, as is the case now.

    Privatization has been shown consistently (by economists that actually care to do the research rather than just accept the status quo as truth) to increase prices, decrease wages, increase the concentration of wealth, and drastically reduce social revenues. That basically means that, except for the owners/shareholders and perhaps the managers of privatized enterprises, everybody gets screwed – workers that then work for less and under worse conditions, customers that may have more choice but then have to pay accordingly for it, and society and the environment at large.

    People know this intuitively but don’t seem to be able to apply the facts to reality, as in this case. Self interest clearly plays a role, as I would think it did here with a sommelier calling for privatization when he would apparently stand to benefit from it. But assuming that everyone here isn’t either a sommelier or a potential owner or manager of a privatized liquor store, then perhaps some could speak up as to why they’re cheering for something they don’t stand to benefit from at all?

    (And this doesn’t even mention the fact that alcohol is a controlled substance that is responsible for great harm and tens of thousands of deaths per year, which is clearly in the interest of the public to keep under public control. Other motives are at work (primarily, profit and growth) that aren’t in society’s best interests when sensitive products/resources are in largely unaccountable private hands.)

  112. I’d also like to add that I agree wholeheartedly that the selection, prices and, most importantly, the drinking culture here in BC are pretty awful compared to drinking-enlightened places in the west like Spain and France (or even San Francisco, as mentioned). We *do* need more choice, vastly lower liquor prices (I was paying MAX 2,50 Euros for a glass of red in Spain for the last year!), and the ability to drink outside and until as late as we damn well please (within reason for noise limits, etc., and so on…). At the same time, we also need public education about healthy consumption, drinking-and-driving prevention and support, etc.

    There’s just no evidence whatsoever that privatization will fix or provide for any of those things – in fact, there’s plenty of evidence (and logic) to the contrary.

    P.S. Anybody else suspect that our ridiculous liquor taxes have something to do with protecting the BC wine industry? Hmm……

  113. Andre,

    I’m not affiliated with the industry. I’m curious on what studies you base your assertion that it is an economic truth that privatization increases prices. That’s a bold statement, and without data or citations I see no reason to believe it. You also fail to make any comment on the $300 million annual savings to BC residents that would result from privatiztion of retail liquor operations. That seems like more public money, not less.

    I would also like to see evidence that all privatization leads to lower wages and longer hours. And I would also be curious to see data on the net impact to GDP of privatization, since that is surely a better measure of wealth than ‘social revenues’ (I’m not clear what you mean by this term).

    Unfortunately I also think that ‘intuitive’ knowledge isn’t a good basis for complex policy decisions. I argue that studies, data and experience are far more valuable in this context.

    I also don’t think anyone here is suggesting responsible consumption isn’t important. In fact, there have been strong arguments that Private stores are safer since they are not exempt from liquor safety officer inspections (which public stores are).

    Again, without actual evidence or data or examples to back up your claims that privatization of liquor will make the rich richer, the workers poorer and all customers worse off, you don’t, in my opinion, have much of an argument.


  114. Wow Andre;

    I have to ask which component of the BCGEU do you work in. You are spouting a bunch of crap, yup crap, that only comes from the BCGEU.
    The fact is that the system in BC is not accountable to you, me or anyone else for that matter.
    Speaking of self interest, the only people that currently benefit from the system as it is laid out today are BCGEU members and the union bank accounts. I have to ask why are they more important than teachers, nurses, arts, culture, affordable housing, reduced taxes, improved services, greener environment, expandded recycling, reforestation, and the list goes on?
    Before I go further let me clearly state that I am not arguing for Privatization. I am arguing for a level playing field. Is there something wrong with that?
    Let’s deal with the items you raise one at a time.
    1) Public Safety
    At present a liquor licensee can be fined or closed if a Liquor Inpsector finds a contravention. I don’t have a problem with this at all, in fact it should probably happen more often. Liquor Inpsector’s until recently were not allowed to enter BC Liquor Stores. Even today BC Liquor Store employees and stores are immune to reprimands, fines and closure.
    Irresponsible consumption is not a function of a private system. In fact the numbers you quote are from years where the majority of alcohol purchased was purchased from BC Liquor Stores.
    You want greater ‘safety’ like the rest of us- level the playing field.
    2) Pricing.
    At present there is no financial accountability at store level in the BCLDB. All store overheads, lease costs, supplies and labour are all pooled together rather than accounted for individually. What this means is the performing stores are subsidizing under performing stores. That is a net loss to the taxpayer. Level the playing field by having each BC Liquor Store pay for themselves. In so doing you free up $242M annually for the government to do what they wish.
    I run a chain of private stores and I would welcome the opportunity to provide the consumer a real choice. Part of that choice would be made on the basis of pricing. If my prices, or theirs, are to high, fewer people will shop there. Strangely a main cornerstone of the argument for public saftey is not more government control, rather increasing the price.
    3) Profits
    A level playing field does not mean I am more profitable. I am only more profitable when I offer better selection, service and price to more and more customers.
    4) Pay Levels
    I’m sorry but there is no justifiable need to pay someone $23/hr (including benefits) to scan a bottle of Vodka. Closing under performing BC Liquor Stores would mean fewer people making that kind of money, but it would also likely open up the opportunity for someone only making $9/hr at Tim Hortons to work in an independent liquor stores and earn $10-$15/hour.
    5) Did you know that 95% of all alcohol in BC is distributed by a private company. ContainerWorld is the first step in the supply chain when a product enters BC. They have ridiculous prices and less than stellar service. Why? Because the BCLDB prevent competition for them. For every $.25 ContainerWorld rasies their prices on a bottle of wine, increases the price of the wine by $1. It is even worse for spirits.
    6) Health. I agree that the negative health effects from irresponsible consumption should be addressed, however the numbers are dwarfed by those in our population that are suffering from diet related diseases. The biggest threat to our public health is not alcohol or smoking but a diet rich in Timmy’s, McDonalds, Wendy’s etc.
    All we want is a level playing field. I don’t care if LDB stores close. As hard as this is for you to understand, that doesn’t improve my business. My buisness only improves if I offer our customer what they want, when they want it, for a price they are willing to pay.

  115. Hi Shea,

    I know what I’m saying runs counter to what we hear all the time on TV, in the papers, from the government, and obviously from the business sector. Would you argue, though, against what I and many others consider a basic fact, that business and the wealthy have a far greater influence on policy and decision making than ordinary people do? If you agree (and I suspect any decent person paying attention to how things actually work would), then doesn’t that make you the least bit suspicious of the fact that the policies and rhetoric that dominate news, analysis and discussion today (privatization being a big one) work directly in favour of those in power? Isn’t that enough to make you a little skittish when you hear the word “privatize”?

    If it’s not, then I’d be glad to point you to a few studies that look at the impact of these types of policies. One is about globalization in general, of which privatization of social services is a centerpiece, and the other is about privatizing social security in the US. Of course there are going to be particularities for each of them, but you can generalize fairly well from their conclusions about the processes and impacts of privatization in general.

    #1 – http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/globalization_2001_07_11.pdf
    #2 – http://www.cepr.net/documents/testimonies/baker_social_security_2005_06_16.pdf

    Now, in regards to the “$300 million annual savings” you mention, I assume you’re referring to the operating budget of the LDB that somebody else brought up. Assuming the expense and income numbers that person cited are correct, then it’s pretty simple: if the LDB is making more than it spends, which it seems like it is with $877m income and $300m expenses (a net $577m profit), then we’re not paying for it at all – it’s actually paying *us*. If we were to privatize the liquor system in BC, then nearly $600m in government revenues (money that’s then directed towards government spending, like education, housing, health care, highways, etc.) disappears from public coffers and ends up in the hands of the owners, who have no obligation whatsoever to invest that money back into the social good.

    In that light, while liquor may be expensive, choice may suck, and sommeliers may not like dealing with BC Liquor, our current system provides tremendous social benefits that we wouldn’t otherwise enjoy if we had a privatized liquor system.

    Does that answer your questions? Let me know if I missed anything.



  116. I’m confused that you seem to assume the privatization will eliminate revenues. Taxes can remain the same but retail can be removed. That would mean the same revenue but no overhead – this is how it works in Alberta.

    The first study you cite looks at macroeconomic indicators to determine a sense of generalized progress in mostly developing nations. I don’t see how that tells us anything about privatization of a provincial liquor monopoly. The study is also 10 years old.

    The second study is (1) about privatization of social security; (2) looks mostly at developing countries. It does not address the privatization of tax collection or the privatization of a consumer products industry. It looks at indicators like participation in social welfare systems and other questions relevant to social assistance, but not to consumer product sales or revenue collection. It does not consider important issues relevant to the privatization question of BC Liquor.

    I am surprised you suggest that something is obvious without doing any proper analysis of the data. Wouldn’t an economist hold back an opinion until performing such an analysis. Any other approach seems ideological – basing an anti-privatization stance of BC Liquor on social welfare economics and globalization impacts on developing countries is incredibly poor ‘logic’. Logic is premised on data. Actual and relevant data.

    I would also note that it’s not always a good idea to assume people don’t do their own research, think for themselves, and perhaps are more thoughtful and/or rigorous than you may wish to assume. Again, I always say, please argue on the merits, not by metaphor and not by personal attacks.

  117. Rod, Shea, don’t you just love it when someone enters into a discussion they know absolutely nothing about, or spout the usual rhetoric; ‘ according to a recent survey” or ‘recent studies show’
    blah, blah, blah, the same arguments I have heard for 25 years.

    I work from documented facts. So once again here are a few facts.

    All orders must go through the LDB in which they issue the purchase order. Not so bad you think, well it can take weeks for them to issue one. I asked my brother in law who sells to London Drugs how long it takes them to issue a purchase order, he told me if after two days he does not receive one he calls them. Waiting weeks, especially when you have pre-paid for an order means cash tied up which is not being put to use.

    As the private retailer who traveled to Australia, found a wine and ordered 1000 cases. While on the way to Vancouver the wine received a 90 point score by Robert Parker, all under $20. The Liquor Board saw the purchase order and took all the wine for their stores – fact.
    Imagine if Bill Gates did that to Steve Jobs what the fall out would be. Or in simpler terms imagine of Shoppers Drug Mart had to put all their orders through London Drugs.

    The liquor board lowered the mark up, at the time 117%, on wines to meet world pricing, while the EXACT same wines I ordered were marked up with the full 117% markup. I have documentation on this back to 1999.

    Liquor licensing sent a letter to a high profile caterer informing them to stop picking up clients orders from their stores and taking it to them, why, this is considered bootlegging and is subject to a $100,000.00, that is one hundred thousand dollar fine – FACT.

    Private stores cannot sponsor charitable events. Wine has to come from government stores. So the community supports your business, you cannot support the community.

    Private stores cannot create their own wine festival, why, they are not allowed to pour wine off site.

    It can take up to three to four weeks for a case of wine to be delivered from the bonded warehouse in Annacis Island to a restaurant in Vancouver, a 30 minute drive. I toured the Boeing plant last year in Everett. Once they have all the parts in place, which can take up to 14 months, do you know how long it takes them to assemble a plane? Depending on the size 3-6 days.

    Mmmm, what is more critical, your friends and family 37,000 feet in the air. If the managers of the LDB were running Boeing we would all be dead, no actually most likely planes would not have been invented.

    Expansion of ones business is illegal, why, because one cannot store wine off site. What does this mean, well, say if you have a 1000 square foot store and you know you can double your sales but you are unable to secure the store beside yours, no problem you say, I will rent a warehouse and store my inventory there so I can replenish my stock on an as need basis. Wrong, cant do that, why, it is illegal to store wine off site. So one has to wait weeks for a case of wine to arrive to your store.

    Nowhere have I said to privatize, I do not want to see anyone lose their job. What we are all saying is MODERNIZE, bring policies into at least the last quarter of the 20th century.

  118. To Andre,

    The LDB had $2,854,072,000 in sales in the year ended March 31, 2010. It had net income of $877,276,000 and paid to the province of BC $863,878,000. Operating expenses were $275,875,000. With a privatised system and no change in current mark-ups, taxes, fees, etc., the $275,875,000 in operating expenses (less a few dozen millions to run a head office, etc.) would go to the province of BC (lucky taxpayers!) rather than to LDB employees ($163,326,000), rent ($33,662,000), bank charges ($19,590,000), etc, etc. Ergo, privitisation (assuming mark-ups, etc. stay the same) would provide to government coffers about $260,000,000 in additional funds. That money would build a lot of roads, schools, hospitals, etc. Would prices go down? No, not if the mark-ups, etc. stay the same. Would there be a wealth transfer from LDB unionised and non-unionised employees to private operators and their employees? Yes.
    All the figures quoted are public information taken from the BCLDB 2009/2010 Annual Report. You can get the 2009/2010 Annual Report from the BCLDB website http://www.bcliquorstores.com (click on About Us and then Corporate Publications).

  119. I’ve worked for restaurant chains and independent restaurants in both BC and Calgary, where part of my job was wine purchasing. I’ve also lived in both places and still travel back to Calgary about 15-20 weekends annually.

    The private model in Calgary is hands down the better system for restaurants and private consumers. There are a myriad of outstanding private stores, many of whom go deep in a particular specialty. I can go to Merlo Vinoteca and taste 20 different top notch Italian wines from Enomatics before buying what I kike. I can go to Richmond Hill for great Riesling from around the world. All stores have discount policies for consumers and restaurants.

    Metrovino, Kensington Wine, Bin 905, J Webb, and Willowpark have interesting selections, knowledegable staff, and prices are usually dramatically less than BC pricing (if the product is available in BC – most often what I’m buying is not).

    The completely private model works for everyone, even chains. Yes, Connect screwed up on distribution/warehousing once in awhile, but compared to here, the problems were few. Stores there act like they are in real competition for business, and I look forward to every trip back.

    I go into a liquor store here and find something out of what is available. In Calgary I think about what wine from any part of the world I’d like to try, then I do some research to find out who in Calgary is carrying it. More often than not I can find what I’m seeking.

    Privatize the works. I’ll get involved in whatever way I can to help.

  120. This system can’t last forever. It’s evident that change is needed. Even if change is achieved at a snail rate, someone or some organization could start petitioning now. If enough people want change in something government controlled, it can happen. Especially if there is tremendous benefits across the board IMO.

    The benefits of privatization (like some other sectors that have privatized) would be beneficial, especially with hard evidence that the current system is flawed and VERY frustrating.

    It boggles my mind as a restaurant owner how some of these processes to get alcohol from outside of the country in, then to the warehouse, then to LDB then to the stores or restaurants can be unreasonably daunting.

    IT could be simplified, become more efficient using newer systems. Everyone would be happy. Except for…. the union workers of the LDB.

  121. “Nowhere have I said to privatize, I do not want to see anyone lose their job. What we are all saying is MODERNIZE, bring policies into at least the last quarter of the 20th century”

    I like that bit. Well said and summarised.

  122. I am working on forming a group, once that group is formed we will keep you posted.

  123. It needs to be privatized.

    There is far too much evidence (I can name a handfull of detailed situations) that clearly shows that the union workers at the LDB are costing far more than it should.

    Isn’t the point of any business is to run efficiently, make profits, and keep customers happy? The LDB has got one of those right.

  124. I should apologize – I’m clearly in the wrong place here. I wasn’t aware that this site was the exclusive domain of private liquor store managers, owners, buyers, sommeliers and people wealthy enough to be able to demand and buy expensive wines and spirits. I guess it’s not surprising, though, that an articulate article calling for privatization of BC Liquor on a site focused on consumerism and consumption in Vancouver attracted the kinds of comments and supporters that it has. (And no, I have no association whatsoever with the LDB or any related unions or agencies.)

    At least most people in favour of this article’s proposal have had the decency to disclose their interests (e.g. Rod, private liquor store owner; John, who has hinted at also being an owner or manager; the writer of the article, a sommelier, etc.)… it’s just too bad that they aren’t able to see past their own self-interest in this case. It’s only natural, of course, in a system that privileges private ownership above all else to think and act like a boss, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sad – and to go completely off topic, it’s exactly thinking like this (short-term profit-oriented self-interest) that, while encouraged by every powerful sector of society, is responsible for climate change, mass poverty and starvation, foreign invasions and occupations, and so on. Anyway, back to liquor…

    George, while you quoted the right numbers from the LDB annual report, unfortunately you don’t seem to understand what you’re citing. For one, those “few million to run a head office” are *already* included in operating expenses. That category is everything related to the cost of running the business, including labour, trucks, photocopiers, leases, depreciation and so on.

    More importantly, though, the idea that by getting rid of the liquor board BC taxpayers will suddenly save $275m (the cost LDB’s operating expenses) is PATENTLY FALSE. This is a vital fact to understand. What’s important here at the end of the day, just like for any other business, is not what is spent (operating expenses) but what is made (net income). So in this case, doing away with LDB would mean that taxpayers would LOSE the nearly one *billion* dollars that the liquor board transfers annually into the coffers of the BC government.

    ***To repeat for clarity, privatizing the BC liquor system will NOT save taxpayers money; it will in fact REMOVE nearly a billion dollars of direct contributions to health care, transportation, education, and so on. If that’s what you want, go ahead, support privatization. Just remember when the next school or hospital closes in your area that an extra billion dollars might have come in handy to keep it open.***

    (Some will argue at this point that BC will make up for that shortfall with the tax revenues from private liquor stores… unfortunately, that’s impossible since A) by definition taxes are a mere fraction of net income, whereas the LDB currently transfers 98% of net income to the province, and B) BC has the lowest corporate tax rate in North America, at 25%, a full 10 points lower than the US federal tax rate. It’s simply a logical impossibility that taxes will make up for the shortfall.)

    Otherwise, George, the only correct statement that you made was that there will be a massive transfer of wealth from LDB employees (and the public, which you didn’t mention but will also lose out as described above) to private liquor store owners if the BC liquor system were to be privatized.

    Now, all that being said, again, I completely agree that things could and should be a hell of a lot better when it comes to liquor in BC, at all levels and by all indicators. I *do* think that people working in these stores, and all working people in general, deserve to make a living wage, so the fact that LDB employees make $23-24/hour as someone mentioned is a very, very good thing, and that aspect of things shouldn’t be changed. Government employees often simply just get paid what people deserve to get paid; can you really imagine anyone trying to live off that $9-10/hour wage working at Tim Horton’s? I’ve done it, it sucks.

    However, if you don’t like what the LDB does, and since privatization only makes sense if you stand to directly benefit from it (owners, managers, buyers, sommeliers – that’s you), I would suggest that since the LDB is a government agency, and thus BC residents technically own it and should have some control over it (and by extension, BC liquor tax policy, etc.), then why not organize a campaign to have community control over LDB policies and liquor policies in general? That makes a hell of a lot more sense to me. There are many more alternatives to privatization (surprise!), but this doesn’t seem like the place where they’ll be discussed, or even considered seriously, so I’ll just suggest the obvious one for now.

    However, if the intent is just to further enrich a few people, then privatize away!!! Just be aware of what you’re fighting for, especially if you’re arguing of favour of something that’s ultimately going to hurt you.

  125. I can’t believe this system has been in place for so long. I guess when it comes to alcohol we are all supposed to be treated as children who just can’t be punished enough.

  126. The voluble Andre, ex Tim Horton’s, provides us with a text-book example of propaganda, relating as he does the possible privatization of an anachronistic public entity to climate change, mass poverty, starvation and wars. (He overlooks pestilence, swine flu and mad cow disease.)
    To the degree that his diatribe encapsulates a premise, it seems to
    be that the notion of self-interest is always contrary to the public interest.
    Thus if you as a consumer, an entrepreneur or employer wish to lance
    a boil on the social scrotum, you are evil-doer seeking only to enrich yourself. Shame.
    You wish not to pay a punitive tax? Shame.
    As all propagandists do, Andre obfuscates and moralizes but fails to
    support his treatise with facts. His notion that with privatization all tax revenue generated by the LDB would be lost is absurd. B y attempting to foist that nonsense on participants in this discussion he clearly believes that not only are we money-grubbing capitalists, but we’re more than gullible–stupid, perhaps.
    But we thank Andre for an interesting read. It’s an illuminating illustration of the kind of mentality that nurtures and supports the system we endure.

  127. Andre,

    Clearly you are having a hard time understanding what is being said. The revenues from privatization will NOT drop as we are not arguing about taxes and collection of them(although we would all like to see them drop). As it stands if the taxes(government markup) on liquor stay the same and the LDB shuts its doors and lets others take over the business they WOULD save the 300 million being talked about! They would not have any operating expenses other than hiring a few more inspectors to make sure that everybody is playing fair.

    I have worked in the UK and it is by far the most forward thinking in terms of alcohol sales. They apply a flat tax upon the product leaving a bonded warehouse. That is it! You as the retailer/wholesaler charge what the market demands. The tax is a pure profit other than paying for a few inspectors to monitor the law. They have the best selection available in the world! Convenience? YES!, Big huge wine stores with knowledgeable staff? YES! Specialists? YES! Supermarkets? YES! Sounds pretty good to me!!!!

    At the end of the day Her Majesty is happy and the consumer benefits!

  128. Andre,

    You completely misunderstood my post.

    Even if privatised, and assuming current mark-ups, the liquor business would still return to the province something in the order of $1billion (just add together the operating expenses of $275,875,000 that the province would no longer incur – these would now be paid by the private operators – and the net income of $863,878,000 that the BCLDB paid to the province in 2009/2010, and you get $1billion plus for the people of BC). If you know an accountant, get him or her to explain this to you.

    Would retail prices go down after privitisation? Not likely, unless the Province reduced its mark-ups, in which case it would collect less revenue.

  129. Andre
    First let me say that you have added to the debate. Your comments are welcome for simple reason that healthy debate is a key ingredient of what has been missing in BC’s liquor industry.
    Second let me clearly state that other than a few people above, no one is suggesting privatization.
    Human accomplishments have not been achieved in either/or situations, rather they are a function of people, yes people, saying they want the benefits of both. That is the beauty and ‘social’ benefit of what Mondernizing the BC Liquor system offers.
    Here is something else to understand. Taxes are not collected at retail, they are collected at wholesale. How this works in BC is that there is a markup that the LDB applies to every product. When a product is sold through BC Liquor Stores the cost of operating that store is subtracted from tax collected. I think you will agree that any amount subtracted from the full tax means less to the public purse. Yes?
    In fact 25% of the tax collected through BC Liquor stores goes to simply pay for the operation of the stores. That means that 25% of every bottle sold doesn’t go to general revenue. In fact that 25% is a cost to the government. It is money that they have to pay out.
    The main thrust of the financial argument is to not pay that out. The idea is to level the playing field so that independent stores (includes LRS’s, PWS’s and RAS’s) and BC Liquor Stores pay the same price for the same bottle. All would have to create a retail price that would at the very least cover their costs. If they can cover their costs then, if government, they can stay open as the store would not divert funds from healtcare, education, fire fighting, forestry, tourism, child protection, affordable housing… you get the picture. Notice that none of those dollars go into my hands.
    At the end of all this the net amount of profits (read taxes) applied to every product in BC still gets delivered to the government.
    You may not realize it but there is a very vibrant independent market currently. The money that supports these stores and there staffs does not come from the government, unlike the operation of government stores. Any profits are a function an investment.
    Again, in the system that I envision money is not diverted from public hands to private hands, rather the profits to be made come from effective retailing alone.
    Let me ask you. If a mondernized market doesn’t reduce income to the government would you be okay with both BC Liquor Stores and Independent Stores serving the market?

  130. Just going to offer my opinion on some numbers as a Chartered Accountant. I haven’t really looked at the numbers that closely, so the following is just some generalizations.

    1. Privatizing the LDB is not really going to save the province 275 million. You can’t really look at the operating cost of the stores as losses when you’re examining the system as a whole.

    2. Privatizing the LDB is not going to drop government revenue by 877 million, unless the markup is dropped altogether. Even if that is the case, it’s not gonna be a billion dollar of profit flowing to corporations, because in perfect competition, net income will probably be around 5~10% of revenue.. which means price will drop significantly due to competition and instead of having a government reallocation of wealth through taxation, the people will just have more money to spend elsewhere.

    What privatizing will do, is to eliminate inefficiency in the system.

    First let’s look at whether the LDB stores are efficient.

    Based on the statements, LDB stores made sales of 1.16 billion, which is 40.6% of the total sales. Their portion of the 1.515 billion of total Cost of Merchandise sold is 615 million (actual number is probably higher, because the COMS of the items sold through LDB stores is probably higher than the ones sold to private stores. Reason will be explained below.) The actual profit generated from LDB stores would be around 270 million. Looks pretty healthy, no? But now let’s assume that they get their products at 80% of final sales price like everyone else (translated to a 25% markup). The COMS goes up to 928 million, which means they are really running at a operating loss of around 40 million IF they are on a level playing field.

    Now lets look at the COMS more closely.

    The total sales is 2.854 billion, and the Cost of Merchandise sold is 1.515 billion. Assuming that the markup is 117% across the board, that means 1.315 billion is the actual purchase price, and around 200 million is spent on storage, transportation, warehousing etc. (this number can very well be higher because markup is lower on higher price items) Based on some of the comments, a lot of this money is flowing to parties that are totally incompetent at what they do.

    So let’s say the LDB is converted to a tax collection agency, with the goal being to maintain the same level of contribution to the provincial coffers. Assuming that the total consumption is the same. (alcoholic beverage w/ cost of 1.315 billion), it’ll just need to slap on a tax @ 67% of purchase price @ wholesale to maintain the same amount of provincial revenue.

    Assuming that private store owners can run the stores and the distribution much more efficiently, we’ll get the same revenue to the government, but with better prices, better selections, and better services. What’s not to like?

    Lastly, in my opinion, it’s never a good thing when people are overpaid for what they do. I have no problem with liquor store employees making 20+/hour if they are actually knowledgeable and helpful, but at the current level of service they are vastly overpaid.

  131. @Bud Carlos – thanks for your insightful and respectful comments. If you really do consider my posts mere “propaganda” because they “obfuscate and moralize but fail to support [their arguments] with facts,” then the burden of proof is on you to substantiate such claims. Unfortunately your post contains nothing of the sort, so I can’t really address what you said. Could you please point out exactly where the facts are missing in my argument? Did I not cite the LCB annual report correctly? If I made a mistake in that regard, please, point it out and I would be happy to address it. Also, what points have I obscured in this debate? If you consider raising broader social issues to be “obfuscating” the debate then, although I do see privatization (and more broadly, a business culture which elevates short-term profit and growth above other unimportant concerns, like the survival of the species, or leaving the earth in a better state than we found it for our children to enjoy, etc.) as intimately connected to systemic social issues like I mentioned above, then in the future I will leave out those connections for the purposes of clarity and to avoid muddling the purity of the debate by bringing in other relevant issues. Finally, if my writing amounts to “propaganda” – to be clear, the attempt to control the minds of others for political, economic or other purposes – then what is it that I’m trying to trick everybody into thinking?

    The only thing in my argument you even barely substantially addressed was when you claimed that I said “all tax revenue generated by the LDB” will be lost. While I did state that privatizing the LDB will “REMOVE nearly a billion dollars of direct contributions to health care, transportation, education, and so on,” I followed that up directly by talking about the corporate taxes that would fail to subsitute the amount transferred from the LDB to the province (thus implicitly stating that a portion of what the LDB transfers would be regained in this way). Was that unclear?

    (And I have to commend you for your amazing last sentence; a feat of propaganda in itself that posits the “system we endure” (e.g. a public liquor board) as some awful burden that my “mentality” (fighting against blindly privatizing something that would result in the enrichment of a few and increased costs, among other harms, to many) “nurtures and supports.” You have served dominant class interests well, young jedi.)

    @vinuono – I understand perfectly what’s being said, but thank you for your concern. It’s unfortunate that there is some very real propaganda here that’s trying to get people to think that killing the LCB will save BC taxpayers money, lower prices, and so on, and that most people here are either buying into it because they don’t know the facts (which I’ve tried to point out) or because they stand to benefit from it so it’s clearly in their interests to support privatization. It’s . As Leo Hsiao (Nov 20, 4:46AM) pointed out, just as I did, “Privatizing the LDB is not really going to save the province 275 million. You can’t really look at the operating cost of the stores as losses when you’re examining the system as a whole.” As it stands, the LDB *contributes* nearly $900m to the province. That’s AFTER expenses. If the liquor system is privatized, those expenses don’t just disappear – what would happen is they go into the hands of private store owners, people legally accountable first and foremost to their investors, not to the public.

    Look, the BC liquor system is already becoming increasingly privatized, starting is 2004 after Campbell had to renege on his earlier 2003 promise to completely privatize the system under massive public pressure and instead embarked on a dual public/private model, with the LDB controlling all distribution and thus wholesale markup. According to the 2010 LDB annual report, there are only 197 LDB stores and almost 1200 private stores, and the LDB accounts for the minority of all liquor sales, with a 40% share. What’s happening here is that the private store owners (and those associated with them, like sommeliers and potential distributors) are upset that, even though they collectively own the market and have it pretty good, they just can’t stand the fact that the government owns distribution and gets to set the markup on their product. Put simply, they want to make more money. There are very valid consumer concerns that do need to be addressed, but privatization will not do that. There is no proof whatsoever that going to a system of private distribution and retail will lower prices, increase selection, do better by employees or anything of the sort. It just doesn’t make any sense. If owners want to make money, distributors want to make money, restaurants want to make money, sommeliers want to make money, and consumers want to save money, who do you honestly think is going to win out in that equation if we had a completely private system where the entire goal and motivation is to *make money*?

    @Rod Phillips – thank you, and I do appreciate your comments, too. Unfortunately there are many, many people calling for privatization here, not just a few – including those who claim to be simply wanting to “level the playing field,” which is just clever code for privatization. Otherwise, first, could you please explain where you’re getting your numbers from? There’s a few problems with them… 1) total operating expenses for LDB are 9.7%, including retail and wholesale, and 2) operating expenses for retail LDB stores alone are 17%, so I’m not sure where this 25% number you’re using is coming from. Second, you seem to be suggesting that “levelling the playing field” means keeping BC Liquor Stores, but having private stores pay the same prices for their product as government stores – however, this doesn’t line up with your argument around taxpayers no longer paying for LDB’s operating expenses. The only way that could happen if there were no government stores or distribution whatsoever. So your suggestion is a tricky one that perhaps needs some rethinking. As to your final question, if the singular goal is to maintain tax revenue (which in my mind, it isn’t) and that can be achieved with a public/private system (like we already have), then I can only say… how? Assuming a private or public/private system, in order to maintain revenues, a flat tax of 123% would have to be introduced at distribution, which would mean that product prices are basically the same for private retailers as they are today – and perhaps even more expensive, if distribution itself were privatized and thus that sector was also trying to make a profit. Is that what you’re proposing?

    @Leo Hsiao – You’re dead on on point #1. On point #2, there is no such thing as perfect competition, except in the fantasies of economic textbooks, and even if prices do drop in the short-term, the long-term trend is always towards prices going up in order to satisfy the demands of profit and growth, whether at production, distribution or retail. The same goes for the age-old idea that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector, the premise which the rest of your comments rely upon, and again is pure economic fiction. I learned the same things in economics classes at university, and it’s all theory, completely unproven by any serious scientific research. You should have a look at the CEPR and the documents I linked to above (as well as a few of the honest and decent economists actually concerned with the facts, like Ha-Joon Chang, Mark Weisbrot or Dean Baker, to name a few) if you’re interested in how this kind of economic thinking actually functions in the real world.

  132. “The only thing in my argument you even barely substantially addressed was when you claimed that I said ‘all tax revenue generated by the LDB’ will be lost. While I did state that privatizing the LDB will “REMOVE nearly a billion dollars of direct contributions to health care, transportation, education, and so on,” I followed that up directly by talking about the corporate taxes that would fail to substitute (typo corrected) the amount transferred from the LDB to the province (thus implicitly stating that a portion of what the LDB transfers would be regained in this way). Was that unclear?”

    No, Andre, what you said was clear enough. It just wasn’t correct.
    By “corporate taxes” one has to assume you were referring to taxation at the provincial level of corporations, LLCs, partnerships, sole entrepreneurs, or any other non-wage-earning entity.

    Unfortunately we do not know, and cannot predict, under what economic circumstances the aggregate of income taxation, licences, fees-for-service, etc. imposed by the province on those entities might approach the amount of LDB revenue contributed annually to the consolidated revenue fund for the social programs you mention (you left out debt servicing plus a few other significant areas of expenditure).

    But you seem not to have grasped the fact (or deliberately ignored it) that the province also levies a sales tax. At the moment it is set at five per cent on the purchase of general goods and 10 per cent on the purchase of alcoholic beverages. Forgive me if I digress, but that 10 per cent is a tax on a tax on a tax, for not only does the LDB impose a markup of 120-odd per cent, to which sales tax is applicable but, in addition to federal duty, and federal excise tax, which are also taxed, the LDB imposes a “handling charge” which is taxed (and taxed, and taxed). So on imported wines and spirits it is only after these various other levies are entered into the equation to establish a so-called “landed cost” that the the product is marked up by the 120 per cent (or whatever) plus 10 per cent provincial tax and seven per cent GST, recently harmonized.

    Now the job before you, if you actually care to do put your mind to it rather than rely on whatever irrelevant material it is you recall from your classroom days, is to hypothesize whether the existing system, or some variation of it, of fees, licences and taxation (corporate and social services, etc.) would generate less than, equal to, or greater revenue to the province if the LDB, as we so fondly know it, was to cease to exist, and therefore contribute zero.

    Now we know you’re not going to do this, Andre, because it could conceivably do damage to the ideology you wish to promulgate: nationalization good, privatization bad. But you must take greater care with your further utterances, otherwise no one’s going to take your posts seriously.

  133. @bud carlos
    Not to quibble, but the sales tax structure on alcohol has changed. The old system was 5% GST + 10% PST. Since harmonisation the combined tax is 12%.
    Now what happened to the other 3% you might ask? Well, our benevolent friends at the LDB increased their markup by 3%.
    They were’nt about to let a shortsited government policy take away any of their revenue.


  134. Gerry, thanks for the correction. I’m probably out of date on the
    calculation of the landed cost, etc., but regardless of the sizes of the
    individual bits and pieces, the end result is the same: punitive taxation.
    With the further increase in the markup we can rest easy that schools
    and hospitals won’t be closed imminently. Pass the news on to Andre.
    I often wonder whether there would be a marketing advantage to the
    LDB to give quantity discounts to consumers so that those of us who’d like to have more substantial cellars could buy a case or two at a time to sock away, then revert to our usual routine (mine, anyway) of buying drinking wine.
    I guess the fact that it’s done everywhere else in the world doesn’t register
    here. Provincial, we are.

  135. Andre,

    Addressing your comment about who benefits if we were to privatize. We all benefit! Like any business you will have specialists and you will have convenience. The strong will survive and those that provide great service will be rewarded. Selection will increase and the consumer will benefit. The government will still collect the revenue generated from a tax and not have to pay for operating stores. Private owners depend on the public and the public votes with its pocketbook.

    Look at Alberta for proof of what happens when you privatize!

    See my comment on the U.K.

  136. @bud carlos

    Do you think it would be possible to address each other in a way that doesn’t require disrespect, snide remarks, baseless attacks and the barely concealed contempt I’m sensing in your posts? If I’ve been guilty of any of those things then I apologize, because I do think this is an issue that deserves a mature, respectful discussion that sticks to the facts and deals with them as such.

    That being said, while you did speak to the point that I raised around tax revenue, which I will discuss below, I would appreciate if you could also comment on the other issues I brought up in regards to your post, mainly your accusations of my writing being propaganda, lacking factual content, and obfuscating the debate. You have yet to explain or substantiate these claims, and if you refuse to or are unable to, then the decent thing to do would be to apologize and retract them. Your call.

    As to your Nov 21 11:43AM post, I really don’t see where I was incorrect. The logic is pretty straightforward: if the BC liquor system is privatized, corporate tax revenues collected from private liquor stores (2.5% of profits under $500,000 and 10.5% of all profits exceeding $500k; far lower than the 25% tax rate I previously mistakenly quoted) would then have to make up for what the LDB currently transfers to the province. Sales taxes and import fees, etc., matter only marginally because there’s no reason to assume liquor sales and imports will suddenly explode just because there aren’t any public liquor stores any more. If that much is clear, then what part of it is incorrect?

    So, let’s do the theoretical work, with the basic assumption that the overall volume of liquor sold will remain the same between our current public/private system and a hypothetical fully-privatized system.

    – Let’s call current retail wine, beer and spirits sales in BC $3,000,000,000, just for argument’s sake. (Probably pretty close, actually.)
    – In both systems, sales taxes, import fees, corporate taxes, license fees, etc., are/would ultimately be collected by the province. No change there.
    – In the current system, LDB is responsible for all liquor distribution in the province. It thus sets the minimum retail markup (currently 123% in its stores, and it sells to private stores at a discount of something like 13-16% less than that) for all liquor in the province.
    – Currently, then, when the LDB transfers all of its net income to the province, it’s basically acting as the de facto liquor tax collector. As mentioned, that’s about $900m. Also transferred to the province are sales taxes (HST x total liquor sales $), corporate taxes from private stores (impossible to accurately calculate now, but for each company, 2.5% of profits under $500k and 10.5% of profits exceeding that amount), licensing fees, import fees, etc. We can put aside these latter taxes/fees because they would remain constant.
    – With distribution and retail fully privatized (let’s get rid of the LDB, stores included, to make this example simpler), the LDB markup will disappear, and all of the income that the LDB currently transfers to the province along with it. This could be replaced by a flat tax on distribution; in a minute we’ll try and figure out what that would have to be to maintain total provincial liquor tax revenues.
    – The $900m shortfall, then, will have to be made up by this theoretical flat tax on distribution (unless those arguing for privatization here are also arguing against anything of the sort, but let’s assume they’re not) in addition to the increase in corporate taxes paid to the province resulting in the shift of liquor sales from the current 40/60 public/private split to a now 100% private share.
    – Since corporate taxes are by definition a percentage of net profits, if we assume that the private sector can be at least as profitable as the LDB was (at about 30% net income), then with $3bn in sales that means a total of $900m in profits. Taxation would equal 2.5% x $500,000 + 10.5% x $899,500,000 = $94.46 million, at the absolute maximum (basically only achievable if the private liquor market were just one company, which of course it wouldn’t be… the real total corporate tax revenue would be vastly lower). That alone is just over 10% of what the LDB already transfers to the province.
    – Assuming COGS remains similar (according to LDB, about 60% of sales), then COGS = $3bn x 60% = $1.8bn. To make up the shortfall in corporate taxes vs. LDB transfers *alone* (not including what private stores pay in taxes today), that means we’d need about a 45-70% flat tax at distribution, depending on transportation, warehousing and other costs.
    – If there is no flat tax at all in place of what LDB currently transfers to the province, as we’ve shown, it’s simply impossible that a private system would transfer the same amount back to the province in corporate taxes. I would have to question anyone’s grasp of reality that chooses to deny this point, because it means they assume liquor sales would all of a sudden jump to ten times current levels – a ludicrous idea at best, and dishonest and deceptive at worst.

    If, within reason, this analysis has excluded any key points, please bring them up for discussion. And again, this was simply meant as a discussion on taxation and provincial revenues, ignoring larger issues of long-term upward price pressures and corporate consolidation trends, public health concerns, and so on.

  137. Andre;
    Let’s be honest your agrument hinges on two things. 1) You believe that privately held companies can not be trusted and 2) that the LDB mark-up would vanish.
    The first supposition is ideological and hence draws the ‘propoganda’ comments. I don’t think any facts will draw you away from the agrument that big government is better, nor are any of your arguments more than propoganda to support big government.
    In regards to item #2. The LDB mark-up would be in place regardless if there is 197 BC Liquor Stores or not. The government is not going to give up this revenue and hence why the system remains broken today. The BC government will not make any changes that are not revenue neutral to general revenues.
    I’m not clear that you understand the simple premise that economics it the allocation of scarce resoursces. The question remains that if the government did not bear the cost of retailing, would they have more money to allocate to other needs? The answer is yes.
    Lastly let me re-state that the majority of the informed assertions in the above comments are not suggesting either private or public. In fact the argument is to have system where 1) the government is not responsible for the costs of retailing for BC Liquor Stores, 2) BC Liquor Stores pay the same price for product as do Independents, 3) A competitive supply chain, all of which lead to a system where the customer/taxpayer guides the market and not bureaucrats.
    By the way you have yet to answer my question to you- Would you be okay with a system that maintained or improved revenue flow to the government yet leveled the retail playing field?

  138. According to the most recent annual report of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (you can get it online), about $715 million was contributed to Alberta’s consolidated revenue fund during the last fiscal year from sales of alcoholic beverages.

    Alberta has a population of 3,725,000. British Columbia’s population is about 21 per cent higher at 4,510,000.

    Assumptions are dangerous, but for the sake of this discussion let us assume that with privatization B.C.’s liquor sales contribution to consolidated revenue would be 21 per cent higher than Alberta’s.

    By my calculation, 121 per cent of $715,000,000 gives us a figure of
    about $865,000,000, which I believe is almost exactly the amount
    contributed to consolidated revenue by the LDB.

    Let us make one further assumption: that with the greater involvement of private enterprise into the booze marketplace, revenue from
    corporate/business taxes would be increased.

    I think this is about as close as we can comfortably get to reality.
    I appreciate that you will wish to dispute this, Andre, but it works for
    me and, with this, I’m out of here.

  139. But Bud you have to realize is that people in government are Politicians not Business men. They don’t think logically, they think based on not getting voted out lol

    I would just like the ability to open my own private store, import my own stuff. Instead of what 15-20 private licenses ?

  140. Why is it ARA (Ayn Rand Assholes) are also wine snobs? But seriously, there is nothing funnier than rich people complaining.

  141. @Rod Phillips

    You’re missing the point entirely. If the liquor system were fully privatized – what many here are advocating, and what I explored – that would mean that both retail *and* distribution would be in the hands of private owners, not the LDB, which would basically cease to exist, or perhaps continue as a tax collection agency or perform industry oversight or something within that line of reasoning. So yes, absolutely, the LDB markup would disappear as it’s currently set at distribution, wholly owned by LDB – private distributors would then get to set their own markups, and that income goes through the corporate tax process, not the LDB income transfer process. Pretty straightforward.

    If you’re working on the assumption that only retail would be fully privatized (which we’re not so far off from on the first place), then that’s something completely different, and then of course it’s possible that the LDB would still function as the sole distributor and basically continue set the price floor for liquor in BC. But quite honestly, I don’t think that would make the owners and owners-to-be here so happy…

    Also, if you read my comments carefully, the issue is not that I don’t trust privately-held companies; it’s that there is no evidence that privatization in general benefits anyone other than the already wealthy and powerful, and a few lucky others – and in order for a few to benefit, a lot of people have to feel the negative effects. I’ve also tried to bring up the fact that the 19th-century neoclassical economic views (laissez-faire dogmatism, market allocation/distribution, the myth of rational consumer choice, perfect competition, etc.) that dominate society and the economics discipline are plain and simply wrong and have been proven wrong for hundreds of years but still drive and inform decision-making of this sort precisely because it serves the interests of those who stand to benefit the most, e.g the wealthy and powerful and their ideological servants and allies (many of which seem to frequent this site).

    If you were honest about reality and the responsibility your position of comfort and privilege afford you, and looked into the facts for yourself, you’d very likely draw similar conclusions.

    @bud carlos

    You’re right, making uninformed and misleading assumptions are very dangerous, but since they serve to further the argument for your questionable (and yet to be rationally proven) position where your own self-interest is clearly the driving factor, it doesn’t seem you have any trouble putting such quibbles as honesty and decency aside. There’s no need for me to touch on your BC vs Alberta comparison – people are smart enough to see all the obvious flaws for themselves. Even less do I need to bring up, yet again, that as you have chosen not to substantiate your original attacks against me, one can only assume that it’s because you are unable to and they were simply that: baseless attacks.


    It’s hard to imagine either businessmen or politicians thinking rationally, but they do: for themselves, for their companies, their shareholders, their careers, their next election, their next AGM. I’ve met far too many people in business that know full well that they’re contributing to incredible social harm and ecological devastation, but within the narrow confines of their institutional roles there’s simply so much pressure to act always in favour of short-term interests like profit and growth and against long-term annoyances like the survival of the species or the health of the planet that they often choose to be blind to their actions.


    What exactly is it about my comments that compels you to such childish remarks?

  142. With much interest and great passion I relished every word and I feel embarrassed for all the people of BC who have been wronged and cheated by the BCLDB, you have started a fire that I hope grows so ragingly hot that the stooges that CONTROL the BCLDB will not be able too ignore us anymore.
    How do they sleep at night?…..This is socialism gone crazy…FREEDOM!

  143. If LDB revenues account for 2% of BC’s budget than the best strategy is the dollars and cents business case that would prove(hopefully) that the province stands to make more through privatization. Bring on real selection and fair pricing!

    Of course…there is still that union thing….

  144. Oh God, is this still going on?

    Not a single non-ideological reason in favour of privatization has been put forward. Every argument for privatizing the liquor system in BC has either been made from ignorance (a lack of awareness of the facts), out of self-interest (because owners/managers greedily demand a bigger share of the pie, although they already have over 60% of it!) or on ideological grounds (markets are wonderful; public ownership of anything is equivalent to barbaric nazi socialism!).

    If anyone is interested, I did put forward some of the facts and logic against blindly privatizing everything we can touch (see above).

  145. Andre;

    You amaze me. Do you know that you only sound like a BCGEU member who knows that their job at the BCLDB is taking money away from child care, health care, education, homelessness, environtmental concerns.
    Your views are more ideologically based than any and all of the ones you are arguing against. You are not seeing the facts because they don’t support your argument.
    I have to hand it to you that your union has got you wrapped around your finger pretty good and it is clear that you don’t understand finance or economics.
    If government run liquor stores or distribution did not exist the government would collect even more tax because the businesses doing the retailing and distribution would not only still be paying the liquor tax that exists today, but also corporate taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes that the government run stores and distribution centre do not currently pay.
    Do you think that the government of Alberta is not collecting any tax on liquor becuase they no longer operate stores or the distribution centre? Do you think that the governments of 48 US states, the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, Portugal, all of Africa, all of South America, New Zealand and all of Asia do not collect the taxes they levy on liquor even though they do not run the stores or distribution centre. In each of those areas it is a cost-less tax for the government. Here it costs $300M to collect liquor taxes.
    Furuthermore study after study show that public saftey in privately run jurisdictions is as good or better than in publicaly run ones.
    I as a retailer do not make one cent more because the government stores are closed. In fact it will likely cost me more as distribution costs, which are currently heavily subsidized at the cost of the you and all other taxpayers in the province, will go up.
    Sorry buddy but you are on the wrong side on this one. There is no valid argument that supports government run liquor stores or distribution. No financial, no social, no public saftety, no moral argument that supports government run liquor stores and distribution to the exclusion private stores and distributors that compete under the same pricing and guidelines as the public companies. None… Oh sorry, I guess the only argument is the one BCGEU is making which when you look under the cheap make up is only supporting one thing- not losing membership dues.
    I’m sorry but protecting union membership dues is not a good enough argument when my disabled daughter can’t get the funding she needs for a proper education. Tell the homeless guy or single mother that union dues are more important than they are. I dare you to pick the phone and call a family that is watching their mother, father, brother, sister, daughter or son dieing of cancer that there isn’t a bed for them in hospice because union dues are more important.
    Andre I’m not sure which intestine you are looking through but you are a passionate person you just need to get your head out of your ass. I’m not saying drop your left wing values, but in this case they don’t hold water.

  146. Rod. Although I totally agree with your post you are speaking to a wall. The members fo the BCGEU are only interested in protecting their low pressure, low effort decent paying jobs.

    Most of what irks me about the BCLDB is related to the staff.

  147. Hello again Rod,

    Nice to see you’re still diligently plugging away at this one.

    Despite your greatest fantasies, though, and like I said before, I am not a BCGEU member, nor do I have any affiliation with the LCB or any other government agency. I don’t even work in a union shop in another industry; in fact, I’ve worked in big-box retail for over 10 years, and we all know how popular unions are in retail in Canada. This must come as a shock to you, since the idea of ordinary people supporting organized labour simply does not reside within your union-despising worldview – a pervasive mentality among all your elite owner and management-class friends, I’m sure.

    I am, however, a customer of the LCB. I buy wine from my local BC Liquor store because it’s cheaper than the 10 or so private stores that surround it. I also prefer to shop there knowing that the employees that work there are better taken care of, having a good friend that’s worked at (and even managed) a number of private liquor stores. He always wistfully complained about how well BCL employees were paid, but liked the “status” of working a “higher class” establishment too much to switch jobs.

    As to your elitist gibberish about the BCGEU siphoning off money from the homeless and destroying the environment because they’re well paid, well, I can only hope that people reading this are smart enough to know bullshit when they see it. I bet those dastardly unions also had a hand in faking the moon landing, too, hey Rod?!

    The rest of your comments amount to pretty much the same thing: pure ruling class fantasy. It was a spectacular tantrum, though… I can just picture your gold-plated watch flying back and forth through the air above your silver-plated keyboard as you pounded away, frothing at the mouth as you mumbled cuss after cuss about Those Damned Unions under your breath, spittle flying everywhere.

    I already thoroughly debunked your tax claims in a number of comments above, as about any 3rd grade student armed with basic logic and a pencil and paper could have done. (The propaganda twist that it “costs $300 million to collect liquor taxes in BC” is an amazing addition, though – well done! Which PR firm did the Liquor Privatization Campaign hire for that one?) The rest of your claims barely need addressing, as anyone (except for your classist buddies, who seem to come here in droves) can clearly see where you’re coming from and decide for themselves how much to trust your claims, which you present without evidence or reason.

    Just to point one out, though, because it’s so unbelievably ludicrous: you can’t possibly be serious about public safety being served well by unregulated private interests, can you? Especially in a year that just saw scores of mining and oil workers die because the companies they worked for made “business decisions” about their safety, namely that it was cheaper to risk putting their workers at great harm than it was to invest in proper safety mechanisms. And it’s not because the people who made those decisions are necessarily bad people – it’s because there’s a perverse incentive in market-based capitalist economies to maximize profit, even at the expense of public (or employee) safety.

    If you cared to put aside your class-based justifications for union-hatred, privatization, neo-classical economics, etc., and picked up a book or two (NOT by Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, or Milton Friedman), you might actually discover some of these things for yourself. [Try Robin Hahnel’s “The ABCs of Political Economy” for a good start; I’d be happy to point you or anyone else to any number of resources online if you’re interested in how markets and capitalist economies *actually* work.]

    Finally, just wanted to thank you for the laugh: “Tell the homeless guy or single mother that union dues are more important than they are.” HAHAHA!!! What? Rod, my man, you would make for great entertainment if you weren’t so sad.

  148. Andre;

    The only thing in your comments that is reassuing is that your delerium is not infectious.
    I must that is the first time I have ever seen anything laugh in the face of a homeless person.
    I am glad that you make the choice to shop where you want for your own reasons, but why do you want to prevent anyone else from having the same luxury?
    By the way what is wrong with striving to be elite at whatever you do? Sorry I forgot people like you don’t like it when others excel. People like you would rather insure that others are forced into a life of mediocrity so that you can feel good about yourself. I have no pity for you as you seem like your intelligent, you just choose to deny reality and consider facts.
    You know what, in the last post I suggested that you take your head out of the your ass. I take that back and suggest that you will be much happier, as will the rest of us, with your head firmly stuck up your ass as it has been.

  149. Rod, it is clear Andre is not aware of the facts, his opinion is merely ideological. I wrote factual, personal experience about the BCLDB and he chose to ignore it. Based on what Andre wrote he would like all people to be treated fairly, a reasonable position.

    What Andres does not realize in the wine world the government sets the rules fine, and all of the private retailers are supposed to follow them – seems reasonable.

    Yet this is not the case, the BCLDB is the bully in the playground, adjusting the rules to suit their own purposes. In point form

    The BCLDB adjusts their 123% markup to the full suit market needs, while the very same wines I order are subject to the full markup. I fought these and won on three separate occasions. The fourth time this happened I had warning they would do this and I never placed the order, which I had pre-sold by the way, which cost me over 30k in lost sales

    BC wines cannot ship inter-provincially. This is based on the 1928 Intoxicating Liquor Act; note there was no wine industry then. How is BC to build an international reputation for its wines when it cannot ship within its own country?

    BC has no auction system for fine wine. It is ALL traded on the black market. I was at a tasting the other evening and two fellows picked up a cellar for 300k – locally. Just imagine if a private retailer could put that on the internet and people could bid on it? No taxes were collected – nothing.

    Private shops cannot participate in charitable events.

    It takes seven days to one month to have case of wine shipped from the bonded warehouse on Annacis Island to a downtown restaurant. Boeing can build a plane in three to six days.

    Private stores cannot sell to restaurants; this is reserved for government stores only. In Alberta, Manitoba & Saskatchewan private stores can.

    All of the aforementioned items are legal in most, if not all, great cities of the world.

    These are serious issues which need to be addresses which will create jobs, revenue and tourists to our province.

  150. I am generally reluctant to say anything more in this thread of comments, but I just want to slightly pull things back to reality here. I don’t think that the question about privatizing or reforming liquor regulations in BC requires us to start debating large scale political economy, of which there are dozens upon dozens of perspectives and approaches. Certainly no one can rationally claim that liquor regulation in B.C. is related to mining regulation in Chile. I think what matters isn’t some big question about privatization generally in all industries everywhere, but really just about whether it makes sense to privatize (or at least reform) in this particular industry in this particular province.

    Whether or not privatization makes sense must be understood from a number of perspectives: tax dollars, consumers, business owners, restaurants, sommeliers, wineries, etc. It is not about business owners vs. union workers. This debate is also not about class – that’s a complete red herring that has led to irrational comments from all ‘sides’ of this debate. Rather, the debate is about fairness.

    To take a big view here, the main problem is the simple one that the regulator is a competitor and therefore is in a conflict of interest. Most of the problems with the BCLDB stem from this conflict of interest. Privatization is one way to remove this conflict of interest and allow the regulator to regulate the industry the way it is supposed to. No other regulatory system in BC works like this because such systems are generally seen to be contrary to natural justice.

    This conflict of interest has created a huge number of problems that have created detriments to each of the groups above: consumers, restaurants, sommerliers, BC wineries, and business owners. The BCLDB’s conflict of interest harms each of these groups differently, but it is consistent in negatively impacting each of these groups.

    I will go through each group and list some ways that the BCLCB’s conflict of interest impacts them:

    1. Consumers have less selection, cannot pay corkage in restaurants, cannot bring wine back with them from vacation, cannot buy wine direct from wineries outside BC. All of this is effectively a control on some basic economic freedoms that all consumers should have.

    2. Restaurants: Because restaurants do not get wholesale prices, restaurants cannot operate with alcohol margins that are at all similar to any other major city in the world. As I’ve recently learned, most restaurants in BC have to operate at a 45% cost margin. Some go to 50%, a very few push it at 35%. Internationally most restaurants are at 35%. It is harder to keep restaurants open in B.C. and to run good wine programs because of the unfair practice of not allowing restaurants to have wholesale prices.

    Additionally, restaurants have to buy their wine all from a single BCLDB store. They cannot shop anywhere other than their designated store. The government would make the same amount of money if a restaurant bought wine from the Cambie signature store vs. the downtown store, but a restaurant cannot do that. All they can do is buy from their designated store. This makes no sense. It is unfair. It benefits no one.

    3. Sommeliers: Sommeliers cannot develop good wine programs or take risks because their margins are too low. They cannot split cases of special orders with sommeliers at other restaurants, even though the BCLDB would make the same amount of money from the sale. Why can’t they share costs and make this sort of business relationship? This is another irrational rule. Sommeliers leave Vancouver when they get to a certain level because no restaurant here can afford to pay the good ones to stay. They simply do not make enough money off of developing challenging and extensive wine programs.

    4. BC Wineries: If BC wineries want to sell their wine at the BCLDB, they have to take a huge discount hit. The required discount is so high that most BC wineries would not be able to survive by selling their wines through the BCLDB. This means they have to either go through private stores, restaurants or sell direct. So far this has worked ok, but the market is getting more saturated. Wineries need as many sales outlets as possible. The BCLDB rules don’t allow this.

    It is illegal for wineries to set up off-site tasting rooms, say in Vancouver. Most other wine regions in the world have off-site tasting rooms. This helps promote the wines. Why is this illegal in BC? Does the government not want to support the industries within its own province? Is it viewing BC wineries as competition to its own BCLDB sales? This makes no sense and is fundamentally unfair and shows a large lack of foresight.

    5. Business Owners: Let’s forget about the big corporations. They are actually doing quite well in the current market because the BCLDB structure supports big corporations by buying wines with high sales volumes. The BCLDB is far less interested in small businesses because they cannot stock all their stores uniformly with such products. Thus, the BCLDB will stack case upon case of yellow tail and oyster bay wines (which are basically products that deplete the soils and destroy the environment where they are grown), but they will not bring in that many wines from tiny guys growing interesting biodynamic wines. Who is bringing in these wines to the province? Private wine stores with passionate owners.

    Right now it is impossible for a wannabe small business owner to pursue their love and passion and start a small wine shop dedicated to, say, biodynamic Italian Wine, or something like that. The regulations make it impossible to afford or obtain a licence and operate with margins reasonable enough for small businesses (which, remember, often require higher margins than the big retailers who can afford the hit much more given economies of scale).

    Private stores (mostly) cannot source their own products, like they do in so many other places. Small business owners also cannot afford to navigate the minefield of BC wine regulations, which can require legal counsel. Small guys can’t afford that. The business model for small businesses in liquor is pretty much an impossible one in B.C. Thus, the winners are the very few big companies that get their high volume products listed in the BCLDB or use large scale corporate economies of scale business models. Why do the top 10 agents in B.C. get 80% of the profits from wine sales in the province? The BCLDB makes that possible. Thus, contrary to what many may believe or what appears to be the case on the surface, the BCLDB policies and regulations actually make it harder, not easier, for small businesses to survive. Those same policies support large companies and huge scale wineries.

    The conflict of interest is that the BCLDB wants tax dollars, but they are making consumer’s choices for them because of their particular vision of how to sell wine. The BCLDB is not equipped to create the nuanced choices that become available in an open and private market. They also have no interest in doing so. That is pretty darn unfair.

    There are many more arguments, but I just wanted to clarify the problem as the discussion has gone way off course from my perspective. Privatization is one solution, but it is not the only possible solution. The main question is how do we fix this conflict of interest and make the sale of liquor in B.C. more fair? Everything flows from that.

  151. Reading the fine posts by Rod Phillips and John Clerides makes me feel like there is hope out there for the poor working slobs who can’t afford to buy a bottle of wine with there dinner,…unfortunately there are many people like Andre who are very happy and content with the status quo, I for one would like there to be a revolt against the BCLDB and everyone stop purchasing any products for one week, even months if we have too, until there are serious changes….REVOLT….someone has to start it!

  152. There are several item’s I omitted which proves the BCLDB and British Columbia Liquor Licensing need a complete overhaul.

    This past Christmas all the catering companies received a letter from BCLC informing them to stop picking up and delivering wine for their clients, why, well it’s bootlegging of course. If they continued to service their clients they would risk a $100,000 fine.

    This is the mindless crap we have to put up with. Do liquor stores deliver, of course not, it would mean customer service. The funny thing is one of the top caterers who received this letter had supplied wine, beer and spirits to Liberal party dinners.

    I have written the premier and the solicitor general highlighting these idiotic rules, no, no and no have been their answers. Why, their information is poisoned, they get their advice from the BCLDB, liquor licensing and to keep labour peace the unions.

    This does our entire industry and the consumer a disservice. I received an agent ranking, the top 25 or so do most of the volume and have most of the listings you see on the liquor store shelves, most of these wines are big branded dreck. The balance of the wine Mr. .Andre, some 17, 500 products, many of which are from small family growers, the very people you wish to protect, is relegated to what is called a speculative listing. This is essentially wine purgatory; these wines are stored in a bonded warehouse and can only be ordered by the case. Restaurants cannot go to the warehouse and purchase a case, they have to order it through one of their liquor stores, why, because it affecst the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of the local liquor store. For a non business person this means the liquor stores sales per square foot would decline even though at the end of the day the government gets the sale. By the way the importer builds in at least three months storage, remember that is marked up 123%, because they know the BCLDB will screw up their orders.

    So this wine has to go from a bonded warehouse to the BCLDB warehouse, then to a liquor store then the restaurateur can pick up the wine, oh by the way the restaurant’s account is usually debited a week or so before they actually pick up the wine, how would you like someone to do this to you, oh that is ok, all business owners are evil I forgot.

    So who gets screwed the customer. Want more examples, I have been in the business 25 years I can go on and on. When these anomalies are brought to union and governments attention you know what happens, nothing.

    My dear reader this is just the BCLDB if you think this lunacy and gate keeping does not go on in other government ministries you are sorely mistaken.

    Yes, a revolution is in order, it needs to be brought to the attention of Joe Average or in this case Joe Andre to actually see where their money goes.

  153. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all your comments and the insightful debate. I’ve decided for various reasons not to participate in this discussion any longer, primarily because it’s abundantly clear that this is not the proper space to express alternative points of view. Anything that I and others have posted here that even hints at a challenge to the privileges and demands of private interests has been met with gross distortions of fact and an utter contempt, nearing hatred, for those expressing the views.

    This is not a space for rational discussion amongst equal parties, but instead a place where those who already have it all simply come to hear themselves speak and bicker over how to get even more of the pie.

    Of course reform is needed. I’d even say that a radicalization of the drinking culture, liquor prices, availability and access, and alcohol education, treatment and prevention programs (and more) needs to be undertaken here. But by that I mean undertaken in the fair and reasonable interests of all affected people and communities, not for the unjustified benefit of an opulent few who could care less what happens to the rest of us as long as they get what they want.

    That private liquor stores outnumber public stores 1200 to 200 in BC, or that private sales already account for over 60% of liquor sales means nothing to these people – it’s just more, more, more. The liquor market is ALREADY privatized, but the assault on what remains of the public’s interest in this arena continues unabated, as it will until not a single remnant remains and every speck and crumb is in white-gloved hands.

    Thanks again for all your comments, and I do truly hope to meet some of you in the real world.

    All the best,


  154. Just got word the LDB has been following all these posts on this subject. Indeed it is a pity they have not responded to any of the comments. They will most likely leave any chastising of individuals for one on one meeting’s, reminds me of my school principal who was a bully. I will keep you posted if this old man gets called on the carpet like an insolent school boy, I will keep you all posted, should be fun.

  155. I agree with most of what you said, however……I have worked at the LDB for 8 years now, and I agree we get paid a good wage for what we do.I do resent that you blanket our employees as rude and unknowledgeable. I guarantee that the average $8 an hour employee at a private liquor store knows only a fraction of what most Government liquor store employees knows and cares a lot less that you are happy with your purchase. At a lot of our stores we have product consultants that have at least their W-set 3 courses, try finding that at a private stores. We have a return policy that allows you to return wine simply if you do not like it, allowing you to try many different wines without any risk; where in the world(including San Francisco) can you do that? I don’t think the answer is to privatize everything. The system is not working, I agree. The answer may not be privatizing, look at Ontario, they have a great system there. I think, leveling the field with discount prices for private stores, and changing policy on spec products is the key. And by the way, HST didn’t change our prices at all, we always had gst and pst, so the prices stayed the same.
    I am interested in how you think that you will get better service from someone who is payed minimum wage, and will have probably found another job by the time you go into their store next. Do you honestly think that someone with as a lot of product knowledge is going to stick around a private liquor store for $8 an hour? Go into a random private liquor store and ask the clerk if they even know what a Sommelier is.

  156. Ever more shocking:

    BC Liquor Stores
    Price: $ 19.99 Volume: 750 mL Country: Italy
    SKU: #144808

    Vintages Ontario
    VINTAGES | 602284 | 750 mL bottle

    And you know what; its worth $14.95

  157. James, actually the HST did change the prices of products carried at our public stores.

    Before the HST, products were actually not charged GST and PST, but were subject to a 15 percent liquor sales tax. With the introduction of the HST, that tax was removed and the 12 percent HST was applied. So, actually our products should have become 3% less expensive with the HST. To compensate for this, the LDB simply increased its markup by 3% which is why there is no net affect on pricing before and after the HST was introduced.

  158. No worries. I know these prices are ridiculous, and the reasons for their being so high are even more ridiculous. That’s why I always visit a friend not an hour into washington and we all bring back our 1.14l each time.

  159. The real issue is simply getting the product delivered to the customer in a timely efficient manner, full stop. Let restaurants buy wine with whom they chose too, presently they do not have a choice. I think you will see how quickly the government would adjust their delivery system when a restaurant can buy what they want when they want and have it delivered too.

    It is the management within the system, liquor licensing, and LDB plus a few key lobby groups, that keep the status quo. Ladies and gentlemen we have the power to collectively change things it will take a coordinated effort, a wee bit of cash, to bring these matters to the public and media’s attention. Once the politicians see it will cost them votes you will see change happen up until then don’t hold your breath

  160. Andre, I don’t know if you still read this at all, but do you think it’s even remotely fair that so many small businesses are compromised all so that the liquor board can continue to charge us 128% over the normal retail price?

    Or that they pay small distilleries absolutely nil for their product and then sell their gins and vodkas at massive shelf prices that could not possibly result in profitable sales either for them or the distillery?

    I don’t know about you, but in a first world country I didn’t think something like the BCLDB could possibly exist and get away with what they do.

  161. when i can (sometimes i am just too far away) i shop at private stores like marquis wine cellars and kitsilano wine merchants… the staff there are always knowledgable, friendly, engaging and so passionate about working with wine they actually will work two jobs to support themselves working in the deep end of wine culture. That friends is called passion. a fire in their hearts for what they love. good job private stores employees

  162. The liquor stores “inefficiency” is not that ineficient at all; bcl’s provide 10% (9.5-12%) of BCs revenue, I think thats over 3 billion. that may not be enough to discourage privatization. so, ok have a whack at it. but don’t employees deserve decent wages? Most of them are probably interested in wine and some of them not, but hey lets not judge.

  163. Well written article, and here’s a good question why are the GLS (Government Liquor Stores) not subject to undercover sting operation involving minors trying to buy liquor and if they did get caught do you honestly think they would be subject to the same fines and closures as private stores ?

  164. Better late than never, I suppose. So here goes:
    What a whiner. You would think BC was run by Muslims, or some group that won’t permit the sale of alcohol.
    Prices too high for you? We have cheap health care, so where do you think some of the money comes from to fund it? Americans have cheap alcohol, but we all know about their health care system. I’ll take our system any day. You can move south of the 49th.
    LDB employees don’t have much wine knowledge? Maybe for your purposes they don’t, but try squeezing some info out of a private store employee, and that includes just about any employee from a store in Alberta (or the USA).
    Too much shiraz and malbec? Well that’s probably because the uneducated masses (everyone but you) are buying it.
    No Loire Pineau d’Aunis or Jura Trousseau or Ligurian Rossese? Well that’s probably because the masses don’t want to pay high prices for a product that they feel isn’t much better than a $14 bottle of shiraz or malbec.
    LDB people are rude and impatient? Maybe that’s becasue they are dealing with a sommelier (aka wine snob)

  165. Someone once told me the Canada Post is the most difunctional ‘business in Canada.
    I’d say the BC Liquor Control Board is tied for that dubious honor!
    There was a staffer filling the wine shelves, I asked about Burgundy and all she could do was
    mumble, no clue at all! I’ll head for a private liquor store from now on for wine. They hop to it.

  166. Amazing how it has been well over a decade since this article was published and nothing has changed. Elsewhere, there are incredible scenes for obscure spirits, niche products – mostly consumed in a very responsible context. Meanwhile the market in BC is driven way down by hideous 170+% markups, causing the market here to favor the cheapest garbage, which people drink in a much more alcohol-abusive context.

    Canadians who have never seen the world outside don’t know any better and think it’s “great”.

    Canadian politics truly baffle me, and they baffle outsiders. When I say a lot of left-wing people are in support of an institution founded in the 1920’s by christian pro-temperance politicians who thought the world will go to hell if we’re not forced to buy alcohol from them exclusively at x3 the price of every other western country, they go cross eyed.

    This same system until almost recently in history forced men and women to go through different doors, disallowed dancing in an establishment with beer, so on – and we’re still here – not because it was ever good, but because most Canadian government is inert, self referential, addicted to blunt instrument solutions, and has zero interest in actually providing anything of value for people. Places like Germany and the Netherlands are a dream.