There won’t be any new liquor stores opening up in the downtown core anytime soon.
In fact, probably not for decades to come, unless council grants a variance permit.
Last Monday night, Prince Rupert city council gave third and final reading and adopted Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 3398, 2016 which regulates a new minimum one kilometre distance between liquor sales establishments in Prince Rupert.
The bylaw was originally proposed by Coun. Barry Cunningham, who brought it forward primarily to protect small businesses and the jobs they create, while at the same time prohibiting liquor from being sold in large grocery stores or bigger box stores near other establishments.
“You put liquor in grocery stores in this town and you’re going to lose jobs. Each beer and wine store in this town not including the [BC] Liquor Store, employs six to seven people. That’s 28-30 jobs. We might lose half of them,” said Cunningham during council proceedings.
In a Province of B.C. policy recommendation last year, private liquor stores will not be able to locate within one kilometre of a site held by an existing store (including BC Liquor Stores).
The government left the rule to the municipalities to enforce.
Coun. Joy Thorkelson mentioned that she was wary of seeing any more stores selling alcohol as Prince Rupert already had too much available and Coun. Wade Niesh backed Cunningham’s rationale, arguing that availability of alcohol aside, keeping big business out of selling wine and alcohol is a good thing for the small business owners in the community – the same owners who support soccer teams and reinvigorate money back into the North Coast economy.
While Coun. Blair Mirau added that he’s not of the mindset for the proliferation of more alcohol in the community, he would rather see municipal politics back out of discussions like these.
“I think when it comes to local government regulation, I don’t think we should be in the business of trying to pick winners and losers and effectively, that’s what this bylaw is doing. It’s restricting the free market in a way that the provincial government has spent a considerable amount of time and resources into making the decisions that they’ve made,” Mirau said.
“If I’m of the opinion that fast food has negative social impacts, I’m not necessarily thinking land use where one kilometre needs to separate an A&W, McDonalds and a Burger King … I see it as the restriction of free enterprise.”
Susan Mackenzie from the Belmont Liquor Store spoke in support of the bylaw during the public hearing process.
“Seeing as how we have a very small downtown core and we already have four established liquor stores and retail stores within a 10-block radius of the downtown, I don’t believe we need more,” she said.
“A lot of people are thinking it’s [Save-On Foods] or Safeway, but if we do not put in this restriction now, it would also open the door for WalMart, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save-On and Safeway to all apply to have wine on their shelves. I don’t think in a community this size, it’s warranted to have that many liquor outlets,” she said, adding that her three full-time and six-part time jobs would be affected with more liquor availability in the bigger stores.
“Of course, we’d be happy about [the new bylaw],” added Lynn Meers of Liquor Warehouse.
“It’s kind of the status quo right now.”
Current Save-On Foods store manager Nate Alcos mentioned said last week that alcohol is not a priority for the grocery store downtown.
“I understand there’s lots of battles for here in the future, but I don’t think we’re focusing on that at this time. We’re focusing on some other aspects and that would be it for now,” Alcos said.
Council adopted the bylaw by a decision of six to one, with Mirau the lone councillor voting against it.