Coquitlam council cheers for booze, approves B.C. wines at grocery store

A different type of bottleneck is heading to Lougheed Highway.

Coquitlam council unanimously approved an application Monday to allow Save-On-Foods to stock B.C. wines at their store between Pinetree Way and Westwood Street.

Coun. Craig Hodge previously expressed doubt about the project, noting that it was essentially a “one-off” during a time when the province has stopped granting wine-on-the-shelf licenses.

However, after hearing from a parade of Save-On-Foods employees who spoke glowingly about the application for the better part of an hour during Monday’s public hearing, Hodge said his questions had been answered.

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“I just want to thank the members of the Save-On team who came out tonight in support,” Hodge said. “I’d especially like to thank the 40 members who were going to speak that didn’t.”

The application also garnered support from Maurice Hamilton, the owner of Pacific Breeze Winery.

“You might be happy to know I don’t work for Save-On-Foods,” he told council.

“Then what are you doing here?” quipped Mayor Richard Stewart.

Save-On-Foods offers prominence to small wineries that often get lost in the shuffle amid beer and better known labels at liquor stores, Hamilton said.

“There’s not much room for small producers like us on the liquor store shelves,” he said.

The BC Craft Brewers Guild has previously requested that B.C. craft beer be sold in grocery stores alongside wine.

The selection at Save-On-Foods consist of approximately 1,300 wines, ciders and mead from about 170 B.C. wineries, according to store representative Amanda Carnegie.

The Save-On-Foods would be about 120 metres from JAK’s Beer Wine Spirits. A B.C. Liquor Store is about 530 metres away from the grocery store.

While the province requires a one-kilometre buffer between liquor stores, that rule doesn’t apply to wine stores, according to a city staff report.

In a previous round of public feedback, 90 percent of respondents supported allowing grocery stores to stock wine. However, more than 100 liquor licence holders voiced concerns about the impact on their businesses.

Letting the store sell wine shouldn’t hurt other liquor retailers, according to a letter from Save-On-Foods director Steve Moriarty.

“In fact, ‘mom and pop’ liquor retailers often benefit from increased foot traffic as a result of their proximity to our stores and overwhelming desire from consumers to consolidate their shopping trips,” Moriarty wrote.

Security

Coquitlam RCMP previously cautioned about the possibility of increased shoplifting at the store, suggested thefts could be reduced by having private security on-site.

The store relies on uniformed security who can keep an eye out for any “transients or habitual thieves” that might frequent the stores, according to Save-On-Foods representative Megan McDonald.

In 2020, there were thousands of incidents in which known offenders were refused entry into Save-On-Foods stores, according to McDonald.

“By doing this we have the ability to detect the possibility of theft before it occurs.”

The store is slated to hire about 150 new employees, according to the chain’s senior vice president of retail operations Paul Cope.

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