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Expect to see more suburban liquor stores in Edmonton after court ruling

File: A shelf is stocked high with hundreds of varieties of single beers.
File: A shelf is stocked high with hundreds of varieties of single beers. Brennan Linsley, AP Photo

The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld the brand new zoning regulations Edmonton City Council brought in last year to allow for a different set of rules for liquor stores in the suburbs, compared to mature neighbourhoods.

The ruling Tuesday means new guidelines in any appeal that goes before the city’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB).

It is seen as the Costco ruling, where the wholesaler has only one liquor store on its property inside the city, although the others in Metro Edmonton don’t have the same minimum distance requirement.

“This was the court’s first attempt at interpreting those new sections,” said lawyer Robert Noce, who represented a liquor store in the appeal. “The Court of Appeal made it clear that liquor stores within 500 metres do not have any special privileges, if you will, before an SDAB hearing.”

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It means an entrepreneur is more likely to be able to get a development permit, even if there is another liquor store in a nearby strip mall, where large commercial centres are established in newer neighbourhoods.

“If certain criteria are met… then the development officer doesn’t have any discretion to deny that permit,” Noce said.

“The court of appeal has made it clear that the way the bylaw has been drafted, the likelihood of more liquor stores in suburban areas is probably pretty good.”

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When city council reviewed the zoning bylaw last year local independent liquor stores said the change would make it even more difficult to compete in an already challenging market that’s becoming dominated by large chain stores.

“The rules that council approved back in December of 2016 make it clear that you will have more liquor stores in suburban areas and that the 500-metre rule really will have zero impact,” Noce said.

The 500-metre separation distance will remain in effect for all mature neighbourhoods.