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B.C. liquor distribution delays make certain drinks harder to find this holiday season

Last Updated Dec 7, 2018 at 9:06 pm PDT

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Summary

Liquor distribution delays make certain drinks harder to find this holiday season across the province

Delays mean restaurants, bars and liquor stores are having trouble stocking certain products

BRITISH COLUMBIA (NEWS 1130) – It’s the worst time of year to be facing delivery delays, some B.C. restaurants, pubs and private liquor stores are having trouble stocking certain products.

Jeff Guignard, the executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, says it’s mainly thanks to growing pains experienced by the province’s new liquor distribution centre in Delta.

“That has led to massive product shortages and delivery delays from private retailers to pubs and restaurants all around B.C. So, understand, this is our busiest time of the year.”

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He adds says this month’s delays are the worst he’s ever seen.

“There are some speciality products that we’re not able to receive. It’s also costing a lot of money because when you place an order, you have to pay for it in advance and the product is not there for weeks, customers can’t buy it.”

Vivianna Zanocco with the BC Liquor Distribution Branch says 50 more workers were hired last month to help clear backlogs.

“The demand is unprecedented. We had a record-breaking summer. On the 7th of December, it’s up 13 per cent in dollars and 20 per cent in cases at both Vancouver and Delta distribution centres.”

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She says the new facility is two times larger than the one it’s replacing in Vancouver which was built in 1964 and can manage five days of stock.

Once the transition is complete, she adds Delta will be able to store three weeks worth.

“We’ve put a pause on the transition. We’ve just had some growing pains as people are trying to get trained on the equipment.”

Guignard says he supports the transition from Vancouver’s ageing centre to a new one twice as big, but it’s long overdue.

“It should have been done ten years ago because trying to fix a system that is way out of date and over-capacity. This is just a very large screw-up. It’s impacting a multi-billion dollar industry in B.C.”

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Concerns have also been raised about whether staff at the LDB have been overwhelmed since marijuana was legalized in October, but Zanocco insists this has nothing to do with that.

“Cannabis is a whole other animal. It has its own distribution centre. Both of these big projects are resourced sufficiently. One is not taking away from the other.”

Zanocco says overall liquor sales are up about five per cent over last year and each year, they fill more than 335,000 wholesale orders for nearly 10,000 customers which include 197 government-run stores and 672 private retailers, as well as more than 400 restaurants and hotels.

Restaurant association: why is it taking so long?

The President of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, Ian Tostenson, says he doesn’t understand why it’s taking so long to streamline liquor distribution services.

“Anybody that has a spec product on their wine list in Vancouver will probably tell you they haven’t seen it for two weeks and this has been going on for about probably two years,” he says. “Why they can’t solve it, I don’t know. It’s really, really frustrating and it’s costly to industry.”

He adds it’s faster to order something online than it is to get specialty wine delivered within the greater Vancouver area.

“You can order something from Japan and get it in two days. It’s an unnecessary interruption to what otherwise should just be, you know, a nice, quiet, fun uneventful time when you go out for having some food,” Tostenson says.

While he says he doubts distribution delays can be quickly resolved, he admits he’s more hopeful after a recent meeting with the Attorney General.

“David Eby is a really bright guy. He gets it. I think his challenge is going to be is getting the actual system to move itself.  Getting the LDB to make those changes,” he says. “I’m sure if David says he’s going to do it, he’ll get it done and that gives me a lot of confidence.”

We’ve also heard from a restaurant owner in Vancouver who says the specialty wine he ordered for a wedding reception in November has not been delivered yet.