The province of British Columbia has approved a new plan to allow restaurants and bars to purchase beer, wine and spirits at reduced prices.

The new measure will enable liquor licensees to purchase products from a temporary wholesale pricing model. The goal is for the government to alleviate some of the financial pressures being experienced by the restaurant industry within British Columbia as a result of COVID-19. The wholesale pricing will be available for liquor licensees from the end of July 2020 until March 31, 2021. The government said at that point, they will assess the program and pivot accordingly.

“The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, badly hurting the more than 190,000 British Columbians who work within the sector,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “Offering a wholesale discount for licensees was something we were exploring before COVID-19, but after the onset of the pandemic we accelerated efforts in order to support these community businesses as they try to find their feet.”

Currently, restaurants, bars and pubs pay full retail price on all alcohol purchases. This equates to paying the wholesale price, plus a retail markup set by the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB).

The new model will have licensees pay only the wholesale price with no markup.

“The people working in the hospitality industry are a major driver of B.C.’s economy,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “This change recognizes the restaurant sector’s important role in supporting tourism activity throughout the province.”

The Province of B.C. also said that work is underway on other possible measures including the “conversion of all rural agency store authorizations currently administered by the LDB to a new form of rural liquor licence regulated under the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch by the end of 2020.”

Over the course of the pandemic, the provincial government has also allowed restaurants, breweries and food delivery services to sell and deliver alcohol products. They’ve also granted private liquor stores the option of opening as early as 7 a.m.

Liquor stores across the province also reported spikes in sales as some vendors saw residents buying more booze.

Graham Cox