March 14, 2015 4:34 pm

Microbreweries say B.C. liquor reforms will lead to higher prices, confusion


Many local microbreweries say they are on edge thanks to the B.C. government’s new liquor reforms.

The provincial government is looking to level the playing field for liquor distribution, setting the same wholesale price for both private and public liquor stores.

This means consumers will likely be paying more for a six-pack of their favourite brew.

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“The wholesale price–this is the price that government sells to cold beer and wine stores at–is going up by anywhere from 5 to 8 per cent,” says NDP MLA David Eby, opposition critic for Liquor Policy. “For the average consumer, this means about 10 cents per can of beer.

“The government [says] well, we don’t know for sure what price the cold beer and wine stores are going to charge. They may choose to absorb that cost increase. But when I talk to these cold beer and wine stores they say, ‘our margins are so narrow we’ll have to pass any cost increases onto the consumer.'”

Eby spent an hour on Friday afternoon tweeting some of the increases in wholesale prices to popular brews made in B.C.

WATCH: Will BC liquor prices go up with new policy?

The big change for consumers will be seen at liquor stores in the province. But it’s not all bad news for beer drinkers, in particular those who frequent their local craft brewery.

“Draft beer has gone down,” says Tim Barnes of Central City Brewers. “So our mark-up has gone down on draft beer, which is really good. That means we can actually pass that on to our customers. Also, for serving growlers right here at the brewery, there’s also tax advantages as well.

“Where we struggle is on the retail side, we don’t know what the retail markup will be for the LDB [Liquor Distribution Branch]. When we submit our pricing for the April change, we really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

READ MORE: B.C. Liberals, NDP feud over booze prices

This is now a guessing game for the craft brewery industry who supply local stores in the province as they try to determine costs.

“There’s going to be some pretty big fluctuations on whatever breweries or distilleries guess in terms of the pricing,” says Barnes.

“Ultimately, the prices that you’re seeing on the shelves were including the tax and now what we’re actually seeing is that tax is being taken off that display price,” says David Perry, President of CAMRA BC Vancouver. “So consumers are actually being given the illusion of a more stable or even a lower price for their beer.

“So they’re taking it, they’re bringing it over to the till and then the tax is being added. Sometimes they might not even notice it. And that’s the biggest thing we’re going to see. People are going to be thinking they’re paying less for their beer when, in fact, they’re probably going to be paying more. Not in all cases, but in a lot of them.”

The changes go into effect April 1.

-with files from Asa Rehman

© 2015 Shaw Media

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