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Sunday opening for public liquor stores debated

Jan 12 2012

Opening government liquor stores on Sundays likely would not be as lucrative as unionized government workers might expect, some private liquor store operators say.

Darryl Walker, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union president, has suggested opening more government locations on Sundays, saying the government is missing out on millions of dollars in potential revenues each year because it leaves most of its liquor stores closed.

"I think there's got to be some investigation in terms of how they're accounting for that extra revenue because by opening on Sundays they're not creating new drinkers," said Rod Phillips, director of marketing and buying for Liquor Plus.

"Their estimates are based on what the private sector is generating on a Sunday across the province right now. So they're not creating any new revenue, their just shifting revenue from one spot to another."

The government has said it will negotiate using a "co-operative gains" mandate, in which the employer will allow wage increases, but only when funded from savings found within the system.

Union officials said the liquor distribution branch collected $890 million in net consolidated revenue during 2010-11, when the majority of stores were open just six days per week.

The union estimates that Sunday opening could generate between $120 million and

$150 million each year in extra revenue.

Just a few of province's 197 government liquor stores open on Sundays, while almost 700 private retailers sell liquor seven days a week.

Two government liquor stores are currently open on Sundays in Greater Victoria — the "signature stores," at Fort Street and Foul Bay Road, and in the West Shore.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said the suggestion of Sunday openings was made during contract negotiations between the BCGEU and the province that began Tuesday and it will be discussed fully at the negotiating table.

"We will not be commenting publicly on matters subject to ongoing negotiation," the spokesman said

Former Colwood mayor Jody Twa, who owned the private CP Liquor Store until about four years ago, doubted Sunday openings of more government liquor stores would have much of an impact.

"I don't think it would be a $150-million increase in sales," said Twa, who owns Jack's Place in Bear Mountain. Twa guessed that the government's signature stores account for the vast majority of its sales anyway.

Phillips said at least 30 per cent of the $150-million revenue figure has to be costed out just to cover operating the retail outlets, he said.

Convenience will dictate where the customer will go, he said.

"Eighty-five per cent of all liquor purchases in the province are done by convenience."

Phillips said the private sector does not mind the competition, but the deck is stacked against the private sector retailing liquor in everything from zoning to purchasing.

"As long as there's a level playing field, we don't care if they're open on Sundays," he said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

— with files from Postmedia News

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