The New Democrats are proposing that B.C.’s artisan distillers should be given the same treatment as the province’s winemakers.
Distillers have complained for years that winemakers have benefitted from exemptions and lower rates on direct sales. Wineries can sell directly to bars and restaurants while distillers cannot.
Now, the NDP is proposing to bring down the Liquor Distribution Branch mark up from 170 per cent to 129 per cent and to allow direct sales to restaurants and licensees.
But a Vancouver Island distillery owner said the NDP’s proposals fall short of wholly supporting B.C.’s burgeoning artisan distillery industry.
“We’ll take it but it’s certainly not a complete first step,” said Patrick Evans, owner of Shelter Point Distillers. In particular, Evans took issue with the NDP’s recommendations that new measures only be extended to distilleries producing less than 50,000 litres of pure alcohol every year.
“We sow, grow and distill our own grain,” said Evans, who produces malt barley on 200 acres of land midway between the communities of Courtenay and Campbell River. “They don’t limit the amount of grapes or fruit other farmers grow in the wine industry, but they’d like to limit my volume of production. It’s a quota for poverty.”
Tyler Dyck, a spokesman for the Artisan Distillers Guild agreed that the rules have to change for the artisan distillery industry to flourish.
“It’s like giving two kids in the family special privileges and the third kid doesn’t get a thing,” Dyck said. “The biggest thing we really hope for is the realigning of the three members of liquor production. We want to be on the same footing as the wineries and the micro breweries.”
Dyck worked with the NDP to draft the recommendations and agreed to the 50,000 litre cap to “keep some of the big multinationals out of the designation,” he explained
Rich Coleman, the province’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas told Metro that new regulations will be announced in six to eight weeks time.