Alberta won’t impose floor prices on alcohol after 4-litre vodka jug controversy

The cabinet minister responsible for Alberta’s liquor industry is calling out a four-litre plastic jug of vodka being sold for under $50, and says he is looking at intervening in prices. Les Knight/Global News

The cabinet minister in charge of Alberta’s liquor industry says he won’t impose floor prices for alcohol on the shelves but is declining to say what other changes might be contemplated.

“We’re not looking to get in between the retailer and the consumer in any way. We won’t be setting floor pricing,” Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally told reporters Tuesday at the legislature.

“This is about social responsibility, and Albertans spoke very loudly.

“I can’t forecast what will happen down the road.”

Nally’s comments came a day after he called out plastic four-litre vodka jugs with a sticker price of $49.95 being sold in Edmonton.

Nally said he considered selling vodka at that price offside. He said if a bill now before the house goes through, he would have explicit authority to set liquor prices and review the system with an eye to ensuring responsible pricing.

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Nally was responding to social media photos that circulated over the weekend of the jumbo vodka jugs that were produced by an Edmonton-area business — T-Rex Distillery — and made for exclusive sale at Super Value Liquor stores.

Super Value said it discounted the jugs down from $60 in order to best serve customers looking to buy in quantity and save money.

After Nally expressed his concerns Monday and said he was looking at intervening, T-Rex announced that despite mixed reaction to the jugs, it was halting production.

On Tuesday, Super Value Liquor co-owner Sunny Bhullar told The Canadian Press the stores would end the special sale price on the jugs by day’s end.

“We still have the stock, but we’ll end the promotional price in light of the minister’s perspective,” said Bhullar.

Under current rules, the provincial oversight agency, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, or AGLC, sets the wholesale cost retailers must pay for products.

T-Rex, however, said the agency doesn’t provide rules or guidelines on how a product should be priced on the shelves.

“Albertan craft distilleries have suffered from a lack of responsible pricing for a while now and, in fact, there are multiple distilleries out there that are selling their spirits even cheaper than T-Rex,” the company said in a statement.

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The distillery also criticized AGLC for removing a rule a few years ago that required distilleries produce at least 80 per cent of their products in-house.

T-Rex said the removal of the rule forced them, and others, to lower prices to stay in business.

On Tuesday, Nally committed to keeping the status quo.

“That 80/20 rule was reduced as a red-tape initiative to help small business and to spur investment, and I would suggest that it worked. So we’re not looking at changing that,” he said.

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