The Manitoba government says they continue to look at modernizing liquor sales to make it more convenient for customers.
One of those options is expanding liquor sales to grocery stores.
Industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic, including the hotel association, say that move could be potentially devastating.
“If you want us to compete with grocery stores, that’s going to be incredibly difficult for our people,” says Scott Jocelyn the President and CEO, of the Manitoba Hotel Association.
Former premier Brian Pallister proposed a bill last year to privatize liquor sales, however, it was withdrawn after his departure. It’s a move Jocelyn says was the right decision.
“Once that bill was dismissed or put on the side, this topic has come up before.”
Many Manitoba hotels allow for the sale of beer through vendors, a business model that is paramount for many smaller motels.
“Retail beer is an integral part of our business, we’re hoping that if the province is looking at changes, that they consider all the ramifications this may have,” he says.
Manitoba is one of three provinces with similar alcohol laws. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island don’t allow for the sale of liquor in grocery stores, something retailers say needs to change.
“Manitoba is one of very few in the world, that don’t permit grocery stores to sell beer or wine,” says John Graham, director of government relations for the Prairie region at the Retail Council of Canada.
The retail council has been lobbying the province to bring the grocery store liquor sales option back to the table.
Graham highlighted that Manitoba has already made the sale of liquor more accessible.
“Manitoba is already moving towards more convenient ways of purchasing liquor, and that’s through home delivery,” he says.
“For the longest time, we were one of the very few that restricted retail hours on Sundays, and now you recognize that the world hasn’t fallen apart because stores are open an hour or two more.”
Munther Zeid, owner of Winnipeg’s Food Fare grocery stores, says he would have one major concern if the province started allowing the sale of booze in stores.
“Shoplifting is on the rise in grocery stores, this is just an added issue to it,” Zeid told Global News.
Zeid says as someone who doesn’t consume alcohol himself, he’s not sure he supports the idea, just yet.
“It’s more convenient for the consumer for sure, and if my customers say they we want this, I might do it.”
The union that represents Manitoba liquor store employees says the move would hurt many different sectors.
“At a time when the provincial government is crying poor and cutting our public services, public liquor sales generated $320 million last year. That money gets invested back into public services like health care and education. Privatizing more liquor sales would transfer this money from health care and education to private investor profits,” said Kyle Ross, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union in a statement.
The provincial government told Global News it continues to hold discussions with the industry about expanding the number of retail locations that sell liquor products, among other convenience options for shoppers. They say those talks are expected to continue over the next several months.