VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s craft brewers are disappointed with the province’s decision to allow imported wine and cider on grocery store shelves saying shoppers should also be able to buy local beer in the same place they get their milk and eggs.
The rule changes came into effect this week after the U.S. and Australia sued the province, saying B.C. wine producers had an unfair advantage. In October during the creation of the Canada, U.S., Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) on trade, Canada agreed to allow imported products on B.C shelves.
“We are disappointed this policy change was made without consultation with the Guild,” BC Craft Brewers Guild executive director Ken Beattie wrote in an email to NEWS 1130. “We understand the need to comply with CUSMA, but feel this is a missed opportunity to promote jobs, tourism and agriculture right here in BC.”
Local beer brewers believe the U.S. wine market had a stronger lobby group.
“We’re causing tourism to come to the city and (governments) are not helping us very much,” Storm Brewing owner James Walton said. “All they do is throw up road blocks. I’m not allowed to have outside picnic areas whereas wineries are.”
Parallel 49 Brewmaster Graham With says it’s really disappointing local craft beers aren’t being treated the same because they do a lot for the local economy.
“They hire a ton of people, they create lots of jobs. When you circulate your local money it’s good for the community. It’s good for the people who have jobs around the neighbourhood and work at local craft breweries,” he said. “It’s a little disappointing. I guess the lobbying for imported wines is a bit better than it is for local craft beer. We shouldn’t have to push that hard to get local beer into the grocery stores, I think it’s just a no-brainer.”
Province says no to beer in grocery stores
Attorney General David Eby says his government will not be allowing beer in grocery stores.
“(Wine in grocery stores) was an initiative by the previous government that, on its face, was clearly illegal under international trade law,” Eby said. “We have an increasing number, every year we’re warned by the public health officer of binge drinking hospitalizations and binge drinkers. We’re going entirely the wrong direction on this so increasing the number of outlets that sell alcohol is not on the table.”
He said even if the province was to allow grocery stores to sell local beer, it would have to also allow imported beer. Eby believes that would do more harm to the craft industry than good.
“If you go to a grocery store, they stock Tide and Coca Cola. They don’t stock small boutique producers of laundry detergent and soft drinks,” he said.
It will be up to individual grocery stores to decide if they want to sell imported wines and ciders and it will be a couple of weeks before the first bottles pop up on the shelves.