Barley Mowat 

Legacy Liquor Store

with 2 comments

There’s been lots of buzz around the opening of a massive new Cold Beer and Wine in the Olympic Village, so I stopped by the newest addition to Vancouver’s beer retail scene this past weekend, and the results were both a bit disappointing and very promising. How can it be both? Well, let’s get started.


As soon as you walk in, it becomes immediately apparent that Legacy is not like any of the other CBWs in the city. First, the store is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Ultra-high ceilings and lots of rich wood trim make an immediate impression. Second, the store is huge; after a while, you just start assuming that each nook will yield yet another passage/door to yet another section of the store. The location is picturesque (just off the seawall in the Olympic Village, but still close enough for a view of the water, downtown, and mountains), if a bit eerie because of all the near-abandoned condos looming overhead.


This is where things start to fall apart, if only just. Beer is segregated into two different sections: the craft beer racks, and a much larger cold aisle for the major labels. Selection in the craft beer corner was decent, if not exceptional. Plenty of BC Micros were represented (Phillips, R&B, Howe Sound, etc), and a few US-based imports (Elysian, Anderson Valley, Dogfish Head, Pretty Things), but the selection was mediocre. Keep in mind, however, that I am a colossal beer snob.

That I can look upon this and think “Meh” frightens even me.

But what did I expect? Legacy has only just opened, and it takes time to accumulate a good collection of those odd releases (eg Dogfish Head Blue & Blue, Pretty Things KK, Upright Late Harvest). First you have to build your base, then you can expand into the odd niches. That this will happen is heavily hinted at by the larger context of the craft beer corner. Those coolers and nearby displays are taking up a tiny fraction of the floor space allocated to the Good Stuff, the rest is bare. In fact, empty space is a strong theme throughout this newly opened business.

The Future

I talked for quite a while with Chris Bonnaillie, the Head Beer Guy at Legacy (as an aside, I would kill for business cards with that title), and his vision for where he’d like to take this store is one to bring a tear to my eye. Not only would he like to do the normal things like expand the craft selection and offer beer tastings in their gorgeously appointed tasting room:

What happens when you don’t cram a store into 500sf beneath a downtown hotel (sorry Viti, I loves ya, but yer small).

But Chris also outlined a possible future where Legacy builds up a cellar for aging beers with periodic releases. This would be a fantastic first for the city, as the only commercial beer cellar I know of in the city is Nigel’s at the Alibi, and he keeps that gem under lock and key. The notion of an open cellar where I could wander in, browse, and purchase aged beer is almost enough to make me cry.

What Next?

As promising as Legacy is, there are a few things that need to be corrected. First, the temperature. Boy golly is it ever hot in there; crazy hot. Hot like “take of your pants because it’s 27C” hot. Combine this with the high ceilings and in a few weeks (or less) I would be very hesitant to purchase any stock that’s been stored high up. A few weeks after that, and I’m not touching anything that’s outside of a fridge. Much of the beer is thus stored, but there are thousands upon thousands of wines there sweating it out. I’m 100% positive Legacy will make addressing this fatal defect a priority, but not mentioning it here would be criminal.

Second, the major labels represent far too much of their beer stock. Yes, I understand the need for a CBW to have at least something to sell to the ~90% of people that don’t like good beer, but that’s no reason to have well over half your stock devoted to them. Especially when, as Chris pointed out, they’ve sold a grand total of 1 bottle of Molson to date. This is easily curable by not reordering as stock diminishes over time, much as Firefly has been doing (with surprisingly little comment aside from PBR–don’t mess with hipster scorn).

Third, and this is a minor item, I’d like to see their massive cold aisle sealed off and turned into a cold room. Bringing the stock out from behind the glass helps show it off, makes people more likely to pick up and examine the product, and in turn helps sales. It also lets you store much more stock in the same space. Keep the temperature high enough and this can double as Chris’ desired cellar (a fridge in the cold room can keep the major labeled beer at a more commercially appropriate temp). However, given how new the store is, it’s pretty unlikely for such a major change to occur so soon.

The Final Story

Combine the physical size of the store with the presentation (and online presence) and it is clear that Legacy has come to the game to play seriously. They claim to be Vancouver’s premiere CBW and while I don’t think they’re quite there yet, I have no doubt they will get there shortly. With great potential comes great responsibility, and Legacy’s potential outstrips nearly everyone else on the field. With that in mind I will be keeping a very, very close eye on happenings in the Olympic Village.

Written by chuck

December 9th, 2010 at 10:19 am

Posted in Beer and You

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2 Responses to 'Legacy Liquor Store'

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  1. Hello There.

    Thank you for the article. I would invite you into the store now. In just one month we’ve transformed the store. We now have over 680 beer SKUs. You were right that it takes a while to get your product in. Our purchase was the largest in BC history and it took the BCLDB over 6 weeks ot get it to us.

    Also our cooling issue is fixed and the store is at a proper 20 degrees.

    Feel free to call me at 604-331-7900

    Thank you very much

    Darryl Lamb
    General Manager – Legacy Liquor Store.

    Darryl Lamb

    21 Dec 10 at 09:39

  2. Hi Darryl,

    Thanks for the update. I was at the store this weekend, and indeed things are coming along nicely. Keep up the good work.



    22 Dec 10 at 11:43

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