Manitoba continues to explore options for liquor sales – Winnipeg

The Manitoba government says it continues to consider modernizing liquor sales to make them more convenient for customers.

One such option is to expand alcohol sales to grocery stores.

Industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic, including the hotel association, say the move could be potentially devastating.

“If you want us to compete with grocery stores, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for our people,” says Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association.

Former prime minister Brian Pallister proposed a bill last year to privatize liquor sales, but it was withdrawn after he left. It’s a decision that Jocelyn considers the right decision.

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“Once this bill has been defeated or shelved, this topic has already been discussed.”

Many Manitoba hotels allow the sale of beer through vendors, a key business model for many small motels.

“Retail beer is an integral part of our business, we hope that if the province considers any changes they will consider any ramifications this may have,” he says.

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Manitoba is one of three provinces with similar liquor laws. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island do not allow the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, which retailers say they need to change.

“Manitoba is one of the few in the world that prohibits grocery stores from selling beer or wine,” said John Graham, director of government relations for the Prairies region at the Retail Council of Canada.

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The retail council has lobbied the province to bring back the option to sell alcohol in grocery stores.

Graham pointed out that Manitoba has already made the sale of alcohol more accessible.

“Manitoba is already moving towards more convenient ways to buy alcohol, and that’s through door-to-door delivery,” he says.

“For a very long time we were one of the few to restrict retail hours on Sundays, and now you recognize that the world hasn’t collapsed because shops are open an hour or two longer. “

Munther Zeid, owner of Food Fare grocery stores in Winnipeg, says he would have a major concern if the province started allowing liquor to be sold in stores.

“Shoplifting is on the rise in grocery stores, it’s just another problem,” Zeid told Global News.

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Zeid says that as someone who doesn’t drink alcohol himself, he isn’t sure he supports the idea, just yet.

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“It’s more consumer-friendly, that’s for sure, and if my customers say they want that, maybe I would.”

The union that represents Manitoba liquor store employees says the move would hurt many different sectors.

“At a time when the provincial government is crying ‘poverty’ and cutting our public services, public alcohol sales generated $320 million last year. This money is reinvested in public services such as health care and education. Further privatizing liquor sales would shift that money from health care and education into the profits of private investors,” Kyle Ross, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, said in a statement.

The provincial government told Global News it continues to talk with the industry about increasing the number of retail outlets that sell liquor products, among other convenience options for shoppers. They say those talks are expected to continue over the coming months.

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