Application to Sell Liquor in Savary Island General Store
From: Paddy Treavor, President Campaign for Real Ale BC – Powell River
To: The Hon. Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Justice Minister of British Columbia
I am writing you on behalf of the Campaign for Real Ale of British Columbia (CAMRA BC) – Powell River branch. CAMRA BC is British Columbia’s only consumer advocacy group for craft beer consumers, one of the fastest growing consumer demographics in BC. CAMRA BC’s membership is approximately 1,500 and also growing rapidly. The Powell River Branch represents 60-plus of those members. We are a non-profit society, registered under the BC Society’s Act, run by an executive of elected volunteers and our society is completely without financial ties to the BC craft beer or hospitality industries.
CAMRA BC was also apart of the BC Liquor Review stakeholder’s consultations. On September 24, 2013, we met with the Hon. John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Ken Dawson, Cabinet Director in the Office of the Premier and Suneil Karod, Executive Assistant in the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. I was a part of the CAMRA BC
I am writing this letter on behalf of the local craft beer consumers, and those who come to our beautiful part of the province, who visit or live on Savary Island.
It has come to CAMRA BC – Powell River’s attention that an application for a Rural Agency Store License (RAS) by the Savary Island General Store and Trading Company has been denied on the basis that it is within 10 kilometer’s of a retail liquor store located on the mainland in Lund.
CAMRA BC – Powell River believes this decision to deny the Savary Island location a RAS contradicts both the current BC Liberal Government’s move to modernize BC liquor laws and current BC liquor policies concerning RAS applications. In the recently released Liquor Policy Review Final Report, submitted to the Office of the Justice Minister and Attorney General by Parliamentary Secretary, John Yap, it is stated on page 53, “this comprehensive review should consider all aspects of liquor policy including licensing, control, and LDB distribution, and must provide recommendations that:
· “Create a licensing system that responds to emerging marketplace realities and reflects current lifestyles and societal values.
· Provide flexibility for businesses and remove operational barriers to help grow the economy, while protecting public safety.
· Recognize the importance of jobs and investment in the hospitality, tourism and agrifoods sectors, in support of the BC Jobs Plan.
· Ensure there is a sustainable liquor manufacturing sector.
· Provide for an efficient and effective liquor distribution system.”
The decision to deny a RAS for the Savary Island General Store contradicts the points outlined regarding the purpose of the current liquor policy review, particularly those I have highlighted.
In an article in the Powell River Peak, December 3, 2013, Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) General Manager, Blain Lawson, is quoted as saying that, despite the fact the two locations are separated by water, “as the crow flies,” the Savary Island location is less than 10 kilometers from the Lund liquor store.
This policy decision is an arbitrary contradiction of the LDB’s own regulations which state an RAS must be a minimum of “10 kilometers driving distance from the nearest existing GLS, LRS or RAS, where access is by all-weather road”.
Obviously, being an island, Savary has no access by an all-weather or any other type of road. Due tothe very limited moorage available on Savary Island, access for the overwhelming majority of people staying on the island is by the Lund Water Taxi. This service only runs from 9 AM to 6 PM during the high season and far less frequently during the remainder of the year. The water taxi costs $11 each way and has limited space for passengers and to transport goods. Water taxis are often pre-booked to capacity so trips must be planned well ahead, especially during the summer months. All this means it is extremely costly and impractical to travel over to Lund if you are vacationing or living on Savary just to purchase alcohol.
Add to that the fact that the Lund liquor store opens at 10 AM which means if you take an early water taxi, you could not buy an alcoholic beverage for your stay on the island from Lund, even if you wanted to. As well, for many on Savary Island, after 6 PM, there is no way off the island until the next day again making the purchase of alcohol from Lund an impossibility. Nowhere in the LDB’s own guidelines and regulations does the term “as the crow flies” appear. Among examples, highlighted in The Peak article, there is a RAS located on Texada Island which is within 10 kilometers “as the crow flies” of a retail liquor store in Powell River. It appears the same standards are not being applied equally.
The decision to deny the Savary Island General Store and Trading Company a RAS license has left responsible adults no way to legally purchase alcohol, to enjoy in their permanent or vacation homes, on the island. Last summer, my wife and I wanted to enjoy a glass of wine with our friends with our meal the night before we were to end our week-long stay but were unable to because there was no facility available to purchase a bottle of wine and it was past 6 PM so the water taxi was not running.
I am confident this happens on a very regular basis to people who are staying on Savary Island, many of which are tourists. Businesses such as the Savary Island General Store and Trading Company depend on these summer tourist dollars to survive. During a time when the Liberal Government is looking for ways to improve consumer access to alcohol as well as promote tourism with more sensible and modern liquor policies, this decision which denies the community of Savary Island a legal outlet for alcohol sales seems very inconvenient and illogical.
This application has the support of the Powell River Regional Council, the local MLA Nicholas Simons and the Campaign For Real Ale Society of BC – Powell River. In fact, the only opposition I have been able to find is from the LDB who continuously ignore the need for a liquor outlet in such a popular and secluded area as Savary Island, unless there is some unseen opposition lobbying the LDB for the denial of the Savary RAS application.
This decision, as highlighted, does not conform with the LDB’s written guidelines and policies. It is a prime example of why BC is in need of an independent review process where licensees and those applying for liquor licenses in BC, can have decisions made by the LDB the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch reviewed.
With the region’s tourist season about to kick off, we hope you will review this application and its reason for being denied. By reversing this decision, you will be supporting local businesses on Savary Island and secondary businesses like Powell River’s Townsite Brewery; helping a region struggling after the recent cuts to BC Ferries services; supporting tourism in the area and providing a much needed service to an isolated community.
If you require any further information, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing your response. For the sake of the permanent community on Savary Island and the thousands of visitors who enjoy the island as a recreational-vacation getaway each year, I hope you will take it upon your office to review this application and do the right thing by directing the LDB to approve the Savary
Thank you in advance for your time.
President, Campaign for Real Ale Society of British Columbia – Powell River