Alberta looks into selling liquor in grocery, convenience stores

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Alberta examines selling liquor at grocery stores and convenience stores
WATCH ABOVE: Following Ontario’s announcement in December 2023 that liquor will be sold in convenience and grocery stores in 2026, Alberta is also taking a closer look. As Tracy Nagai reports, some family-run businesses say the impact could be devastating – Apr 11, 2024

Alberta is looking into the possibility of expanding liquor sales into grocery and convenience stores.

While no final decisions have been made, a spokesperson for the minister of Service Alberta said in light of Ontario’s recent decision to change its liquor retail model, “the minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction formed an MLA committee to meet with stakeholders and provide advice to the minister on the possibility of expanding liquor sales into grocery and convenience stores in Alberta.”

“Alberta’s liquor market is a leader in Canada for product choice and retail options for consumers,” Nicky Gocuan said in a statement to Global News.

“The MLAs have completed their meetings and a summary of those conversations is currently being drafted for the minister to consider. No decision has been made to change Alberta’s fully private liquor retail model.”

In December 2023, Ontario announced sales of beer, wine, cider and ready-to-drink cocktails will be allowed in convenience stores and all grocery stores by 2026.

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One liquor store owner said he believes the move to offer the products in grocery and convenience stores is “completely unnecessary.”

“Ever since it was privatized back in the ’90s I feel like liquor stores have done a great job,” said Abhi Toor with Payless Liquor Store in Calgary.

“In the liquor store industry, it’s usually small business owners. These aren’t a lot of franchises.”

In 2021, 7-Eleven began serving alcohol in some locations in Alberta, including stores in Edmonton and Calgary. Alberta, Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis previously said it was because the stores had adapted their businesses to include restaurants.

Following Ontario’s announcement in December, some clinicians raised concerns about liquor becoming more accessible.

One addictions counsellor said expanding liquor sales into these locations may create an initial reaction, but added that alcohol is already very accessible for those who want it.

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“It might be a bit of a shock, particularly for someone who’s in recovery or someone who’s still in the depths of their addiction. It could make access a little easier,” said Paul Sibley with Last Door Recovery Society.

“A grocery store is kind of an unfamiliar place right now, so that might change for people.”

Alberta has operated a privatized liquor industry for 30 years, with approximately 2,400 retailers.

— with files from Tracy Nagai, Global News.

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