In BC, wine is held hostage behind a wall of high taxation and arcane laws stemming from the prohibition era. It's time to help our wine and hospitality industries by modernizing our wine laws and tax system. Please help us to ... Free the Wine!

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Free the Wine in BC
FedEx to Direct Ship U.S. Wine to Canadian Consumers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Hicken   
Saturday, 28 November 2009 17:53
FedEx has just announced that it will be part of a new "direct purchase" system which will allow U.S. wineries to direct ship wine to consumers in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. This groundbreaking announcement will allow individuals in these provinces to purchase wine direct from U.S. wineries. FedEx will retain control of the shipment at all relevant times but will collect and remit the applicable taxes and liquor board markup on behalf of the liquor boards. The system will be "transparent" for the consumer with the wine arriving direct to their home or business from the winery and FedEx taking care of all the customs issues (consumers will be charged by credit card for the various fees). [Update: it's not clear whether there is regulatory approval for this new system - see this article for more info.]
Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 December 2009 00:50 )
Alert: Vancouver Bylaw Threatens Wine Consumption in Restaurants PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Hicken   
Friday, 23 October 2009 19:15

Customer: A bottle of the Caymus Cabernet please. Waiter: Sorry, sir, I am afraid you'll have to order something cheaper. It's a little slow in here tonight and we can't sell any more expensive wine unless we sell more food.

Sound ridiculous? Perhaps not in Vancouver ...

The City of Vancouver is currently implementing changes to its bylaws regarding the operating hours of restaurants and liquor service in restaurants. One little noticed section of the changes seriously threatens the business viability of most restaurants in Vancouver and would have extremely detrimental effects on the consumption of wine in restaurants.

As part of the condition of granting a restaurant a food-primary license, the province (LCLB) currently has a requirement that the restaurant primarily be in the business of selling food rather than liquor. The province can currently check this by enforcing a requirement that in any 24 hour period, the restaurant should not be selling more liquor than food. While this method of testing the balance seems problematic to me, it generally has been accepted by restaurants because food sales at lunch (and/or breakfast etc ...) can balance out higher liquor sales at dinner.

The City, however, is proposing to change the 24 hour check to an 8 hour check. That would mean that solely during the hours of dinner service, a restaurant would have to sell more food than liquor. It doesn't take too much thought to realize that this is a completely unworkable rule. Suppose, for example, that a single table of two orders an expensive bottle of wine ($150) with two entrees ($50). That purchase would skew the sales toward liquor instantly. If that was the only table for the night, or if all other tables ordered 50/50, then the restaurant would be off-side for the night. I would venture to guess that this rule will be immediately unworkable in most popular restaurants in Vancouver.

The effect on fine wine sales could be dramatic. If the manager for the night notices that the restaurant is running 50/50, then theoretically he or she should prevent customers from ordering expensive wine because that would throw the restaurant off for the 8 hour period. Any restaurant that sells moderate to expensively priced wine should be extremely worried about this rule. As the Olympics approaches, this is a huge backward step for the modernization of wine laws in Vancouver.

Update (November 3, 2009): Good News .... The City of Vancouver has withdrawn the proposed bylaw and it will not be considered in its original form, as described above. There will now be a "rethink" and further consultation with the industry.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 November 2009 19:40 )
Time for BC Govt to Leave the Retail Wine Biz PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Hicken   
Thursday, 24 September 2009 17:23
Please see the op-ed piece in today's Vancouver Sun in which Free the Wine's executive director argues that it's time for the BC government to get out of the retail side of the liquor and wine business. Free the Wine believes that our government could make more money, grow the industry and have more effective liquor policy if it adopts broad changes. It's time to bring B.C.'s liquor laws and retail system into the 21st century.
Last Updated ( Friday, 13 August 2010 18:19 )
Alberta Liquor Board Threatens BC Wineries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Hicken   
Friday, 31 July 2009 18:25
In a move of breathtaking hostility towards both the BC wine industry and Alberta wine consumers, the Alberta liquor board has recently threatened BC wineries with "criminal enforcement" action if they ship wine from BC into Alberta. The legal justification for this? An 80 year old prohibition era law which on its face prohibits all movement of liquor across provincial borders (even, for example, the act of carrying a single bottle of wine across the border with you for personal consumption). Many lawyers think the law is unconstitutional but it's still on the books. Message to all federal and provincial politicians ... help! Canadian wine consumers need to be rescued from our provincial liquor boards. Theoretically, we, as taxpayers, own the liquor boards. You would think that there might be more accountability in terms of consumer needs ... unfortunately, revenue is pretty much the sole consideration.
More information from the wineries perspective is on this site:
More information from a legal perspective is here:
Last Updated ( Friday, 31 July 2009 20:20 )
Alberta Rolls Back Wine Tax Increase PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Hicken   
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 16:52
In a surprise announcement, Premier Stelmach of Alberta announced on July 7th that he is reversing the liquor tax hikes that were implemented in the recent April budget. The hikes had added 75 cents to Alberta's flat tax on a bottle of wine, increasing the total tax to $3.00 per bottle. Stelmach indicated that he had been uncomfortable with the increases all along.
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