Although it has been a few years since Al McCreary has been directly involved in the liquor store business, he is staying associated at the provincial level.
The Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE) reelected the former co-owner of the Hudson Bay Lodge to another two years as president in October.
McCreary said his interest is partly just keeping busy, but moreover he wants to see through initiatives that have been near and dear to his heart since he was a member of the founding board of ABLE in 2004.
“We’re in the middle of a negotiation with the government to amend some, what I always call technical issues on liquor distribution,” he said. “Because I’m familiar with it and been involved, I thought I might as well hang around for another couple of years.”
Specifically he wants to make the system more efficient.
“We have a problem in B.C. with the distribution system where stuff comes in to a bonded warehouse and then is moved from the bonded warehouse to the government warehouse,” he explained. “Sometimes that takes two weeks. Meanwhile the bonded warehouse also delivers direct product and with computers we’re saying there’s no reason the government can’t track the sale; there’s no reason to handle it one more time or two more times.”
This is particularly problematic in remote areas as McCreary is personally aware from his years operating a liquor store in Smithers.
“One of the problems we have with the current system is everything comes out of Warehouse 1, i.e., Vancouver, so if you get back-ordered you’re supposed to do without,” he said. “When you live in rural areas like we do, waiting seven or 10 days sometimes costs you customers when you’re a private liquor store.”
Another issue McCreary wants to see fixed is prices for small businesses that may not need to, or be able to afford to, buy liquor in volume.
“The government is looking at saying there may be a [wholesale] price [for individual bottles],” he said. “We’re hoping that will pass on some savings to customers and try to keep the liquor prices in restaurants and otherwise more reasonable.”
These are some of the things contained in the final report of the government’s Business Technical Advisory Panel (BTAP), which made 24 recommendations. In January, Attorney General David Eby said those recommendations would be the Province’s roadmap for liquor policy reforms.
“We hope in this month or the next we’re going to get some positive resolutions from the current government and, if not, we have to figure out how we’re going to get the government to move on it,” McCreary said.
“One of our concerns is we’re now almost into the third year of their mandate and they haven’t moved yet and fourth year is not a good time for change.”
ABLE does acknowledge, however, that progress has been made.
In a recent update to members, the organization noted the new Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) warehouse that opened in Delta in May should reap benefits.
“At more than double the capacity of the Vancouver warehouse, the LDB can better manage and access product and get it to customers more efficiently,” the report stated. “They can also stock 15 days worth of product in the new warehouse, a vast improvement over the few days they could previously stock.”
The update also reported stocking levels at LDB are greater than 94 per cent for the current year, up from 80 per cent at the same time last year.