Barley Mowat 

Liquor Store Growlers

with 7 comments

So, the BC Government is moving down their checklist of recommendations from the Liquor Policy Review, finding new and innovative ways to technically give the public what they want while simultaneously screwing us over with policy gotchas preventing any actual enjoyment of said changes.

Let’s review how we got here.

Policy Recommendation #19 specified that “The Province should develop and implement a retail model that meets consumer demands for more convenience by permitting the sale of liquor in grocery stores.”

That seems perfectly reasonable until you realize it came with three caveats. The first maintains the existing cap on total number of Liquor Retail Store licenses in the province, which has been maxed out for many years. Basically, a grocery store can only sell liquor by shutting down an existing LRS.

The second gotcha specified that the minimum spacing of 1km between LRSs should be maintained. The third specifies that any grocery store that gets through the first two then have to build a “store within a store” to hold the booze, complete with separate tills and a no-minors rule. Thanks, guys.

Take those three elements together and we have a model that:
– Does not actually increase the number of locations in the province where one can buy liquor
– Prevents most grocery stores from even being able to sell liquor due to the 1km rule (all but 2 stores, in the entire province, are inhibited by this rule)
– Makes the cost to a store of actually selling liquor prohibitive, both in acquiring the license to sell, and in the required renovations to basically pick up an existing LRS and transport it into the store

Ever feel a little bit betrayed?

Okay, fine. They screwed that one up massively. Next up was Happy Hour, how could they possibly mess up “Allow drinks to be cheaper for a few hours?” For reference, here is the actual wording:

Policy Recommendation # 16: “Permit licensees to offer time-limited drink specials (e.g., happy hours),
provided the price is not below a prescribed minimum consistent with those supported by health advocates.”

Seems reasonable, right? Alas, the new minimums were so infamously high that many pubs had to raise, not lower, their prices. Dammmmn. Either they’re woefully incompetent, or they’re taking very mischievous delight in screwing BC liquor consumers over with a serious of “deal with the devil” style policy changes.

Although, to be perfect honest, we absolutely
should have seen this one coming

So now, when I get a PDF of a government survey being circulated about the next recommendation under consideration, I somewhat understandably start reading between the lines to see what they could possibly fuck up this time.

Here’s the full text of Policy Recommendation #69: “Allow private and public retail liquor stores to sell growlers (refillable bottles) and operate refilling stations.”

Before we start dusting off our growler collections in anticipation of getting fills of fine imported beers, I want to draw your attention to two questions the government feels the need to ask as part of this survey. There’s nothing firm here, but the same people who have crippled our Grocery Store Grog and Happy Hours are openly wondering about:

Does the size/volume of the growler bottle need to be restricted?


Do you have concerns about the labelling of growlers, particularly whether a brewery, manufacturer, or liquor store can refill a growler with a competitor’s label?

You don’t seed the conversation in a survey like this by randomly asking questions on topics you, yourself, don’t hold opinions on. The first question should end with “because we sure as hell do” and the second with “otherwise children might drink beer thinking it was merely Draino! Won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?!”

Well, I mean, someone besides this guy.

So yes, growler fills in LRSs are likely coming to BC sometime soon, but please be prepared for a government mandate restricting the size of those growlers to one arbitrary size, and another mandate making it illegal for all growler fillers everywhere to put their beer in someone else’s growler, basically ruining one of the really cool things about the very concept of growlers.

I want to be wrong; I want to be worried for nothing but, burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me; burn me thrice, you must be the BC LCLB.

Written by chuck

August 26th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Beer and You

7 Responses to 'Liquor Store Growlers'

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  1. Growler fills in LRSs is never going to happen. Too complicated.

    Filling stations would have to be automated (for measures). You’d have to buy a standard size “approved”growler from the LRS.

    The selection would also be a joke…consisting of Molson CDN and Labatt’s Blue…maybe a little Lucky…

    Zinc Whiskers

    26 Aug 14 at 16:30

  2. I think you are probably right. Which is a shame since there are no breweries outside of industrial areas which makes getting a growler filled more difficult than it might be.

    Then there are breweries who insist on using expensive “fill stations” and thus have fewer growler fillers than beers they make. Or breweries that allow you to taste the beer, but are not necessarily prepared to fill a growler. Or, like Howe Sound Brewing, unwilling to sell take out beer in anything other than their own bottles.

    Stephen Rees

    27 Aug 14 at 12:54

  3. Hi Chuck,
    I’m on the working group panel. We’ll be working with ABLE to submit a proposal to the LCLB. the questions that were asked in the survey were compiled based on regulations in other provinces. it’s going to be interesting, but the biggest concern is about proper service, and maintaining integrity of the beer. Anyways, I’m excited about it, and I’ll do my best to advocate for craft beer drinkers. Cheers!
    Ben, West Coast Liquor co.- Kerrisdale


    27 Aug 14 at 17:03

  4. @Ben any idea what the recommendations will be as to existing breweries filling competitors bottles. I really hope this won’t be the case as it will require people to buy way more growlers the necessary and may discourage new Craft beer consumers from buying anyway all.

    Adam Crandall

    1 Sep 14 at 18:28

  5. Hey Adam,
    We were all in agreement that filling bottles of “competing” breweries should be left up to the merchant and not legislated. I brought up the example of Four Winds running out of bottles and Steel & Oak and Brassneck coming to the rescue with their bottles. There seemed to be a lot of paranoia and uncertainty by other members about it, in the sense that they were concerned what OTHER breweries thought about them (merchants) filling their bottles, etc. etc.
    I think the consensus among us on the panel was not to over-legislate this. That said, we only made the submission. It’s up to the BC Government whether or not they want to listen to our suggestions…


    17 Sep 14 at 06:39

  6. Growlers in LRS stores is not only possible it is coming sooner then you think. I was the liquor consultant on a new liquor store and put in a 26 tap growlers system with only BC Craft beers, ciders or wine on it. It is used for tasting right now, but as soon as gov say yes it can full bottles. The technology is already here and Consumer is ready, but gov needs to change a few rules. I will be doing other stores in BC and will introduce an even better growler system in the next few stores I do.


    22 Sep 14 at 22:42

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