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MB government planning to expand private alcohol sales

By: Q Country/Star FM News
Posted: May 27, 2022 04:29

Bill includes a pilot project to allow liquor sales in convenience stores and groceries

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The Manitoba government is introducing legislation to increase convenience for consumers by allowing all existing liquor retail licence holders to sell all types of liquor products, Natural Resources and Northern Development Minister Scott Fielding, minister responsible for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL), announced Thursday (May 26).

"These changes will increase convenience for consumers across Manitoba by allowing all existing liquor retailers to expand their product offerings to all liquor categories," said Fielding. "The proposed changes would eliminate unnecessary retail restrictions on consumers and allow Manitoba's existing liquor retail licence holders, the vast majority of which are locally owned small businesses, to grow their businesses by selling the full line of MBLL products."

As of April 1, there were 482 licensed retail liquor locations throughout Manitoba. Retail liquor licences are separated into three categories that restrict liquor sales by product type and retail setting. The minister noted that approximately 70 per cent of all liquor sold in Manitoba is currently purchased through private liquor retail venues.

"Today's announcement will bring new opportunities for Manitoba's hotel sector, which has a long-standing relationship with the government in retailing and serving liquor in Manitoba," said Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO, Manitoba Hotel Association. "We thank Minister Fielding and the provincial government for listening to us and for moving forward with liquor modernization in a way that will benefit Manitoba locally owned small businesses."

With these changes, Manitobans would be able to purchase spirits at a variety of new locations that include up to 70 new locations in Winnipeg, nine new locations in Brandon and up to 169 new locations in rural Manitoba. Wine products would be available in up to 62 new locations in Winnipeg, nine in Brandon and 169 locations in rural Manitoba. Beer in case lots could also be expanded to 118 new locations in rural Manitoba.

Currently, hotel vendors can only sell beer, cider and refreshment beverages. Legislative changes would allow current licence holders the option to transition to the new liquor store licence, which would allow them to sell a full range of liquor products and remove the requirement to operate a hotel.

"I'm excited to see the modernization of liquor laws and to see that the provincial government is consulting stakeholders in the hotel and hospitality industry to support their local businesses that were severely impacted by COVID-19 pandemic," said Ravi Remberran, owner, Four Crowns Inn. "We know that accessibility and convenience are highly valued in today's age, and I believe these proposed changes will help provide this."

Rural liquor vendors presently sell spirits, wine and refreshment beverages but are restricted in their sales of beer and cider. Under the new framework, these retailers could expand their product line to include these products in all quantities.

The proposed legislation would also allow the holders of specialty wine store licences to expand their product offerings to spirits and beer products. The legislation would not make any changes to their existing licence. The proposed changes do not impact the licences or operations of MBLL Liquor Mart stores or duty-free shops.

"Under this new legislation, consumers will no longer need to make multiple stops at different retail locations in order to purchase products," Fielding said. "These changes are especially helpful to rural Manitobans as the current legislative framework requires consumers to travel long distances in order to purchase certain liquor products."

The proposed legislation also enables MBLL to adjust to the rapidly changing retail marketplace by enabling a pilot project to test the viability of liquor sales in alternate retail locations. An MBLL pilot project could be authorized for up to five years under conditions set by the provincial government after a mandatory public consultation period, the minister noted.

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