The City of North Vancouver will go ahead with its refusal of a wine permit at a North Vancouver Save On Foods store. North Shore News files

Any chance of Park & Tilford’s Save-On-Foods being able to sell bottles of red, white and rosé has died on the vine, as City of North Vancouver has council deemed the health risk posed to the public too great to warrant a licence.

A ten-person Save-On-Foods workforce appeared before council on Monday evening, including staff, store managers, the senior vice-president of the company and the store’s manager of wine operations, to urge them to reconsider their 2019 decision to reject a wine sales permit for the Brooksbank Avenue store.

The staff argued the inclusion of wine to supermarket shelves would bring convenience to shoppers, would help support B.C. wineries, and would strengthen the relationship built with the community.

Many regulars and locals have questioned when the store will stock wine, explained supermarket staff – requests that have only amplified since the store begun renovations earlier this year.

“I hear from our customers every day that they would like the convenience of being able to purchase wine with their groceries,” said Shafiq Jaffer. “As a retailer, and as a business, we’d like to provide that service to our customers. Our company supports locals, and we’re only asking to sell local products.”

To assuage any concerns over inebriated customers or the encouragement of excessive consumption, Save-On staff assured that the selling of wine would be done in a way that caters to those hoping to have a glass of red with their evening meal, not those yearning for a night on the town.

The call was supported by Coun. Holly Back, who said the inclusion would be benefit shoppers, bring a “beautiful department” to the store, and support B.C. wineries, which “suffered greatly” through the pandemic.

“I think wine with groceries is convenient, especially if you’re travelling on a bike or transit. You only have to go to get your groceries and if you want to have wine with dinner, it’s all in one spot,” she said. “We fully support our brewpubs and the extended hours of our brewpubs … We promoted wine and drinking in our parks, and now we’re telling people where they can and cannot buy wine … It’s time that we treat adults like adults and let them make their own decisions.”

Earlier in the evening Dr. Alex Choi, Vancouver Coastal Health’s medical health officer for the North Shore, had expressed her “grave concerns” on the selling of alcohol, touching on the risk of increase of alcohol disorders, liver disease, traffic injuries, cancer and exacerbated mental health conditions.

It had been a contribution to the discussion that would ultimately sway the council’s decision – despite the urgent plea from those at Save On Foods, the motion to reject the wine permit was carried 5-2, with council deciding that the risk to public health was too great to ignore. 

Coun. Shervin Shahriari said Choi’s argument for potential harm “outweighs the business argument and the argument for convenience,” while Couns. Jessica McIlroy and Angela Girard touched on the importance of following the council’s existing policy, which states a new retail liquor sales location should be more than a kilometre away from any site that already sells alcohol.

With The Gull Liquor Store a “mere 100 metres away,” it provides enough convenience to shoppers, said Girard.

As had been the case with all members of council, Mayor Linda Buchanan said both sides of the argument were just and worthy of consideration, however ultimately voted in favour of the refusal, echoing Choi’s health concerns and Girard and McIlroy’s statements regarding the following of public policy.

She stressed the need to support local business – the inclusion of a wine department to Save On Foods wouldn’t help the smaller wine businesses, she argued, but would take business away from them. 

“Grocery stores are doing exceptionally well … I’m not interested in creating another revenue stream for grocery stores,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say that the City of North Vancouver has a problem with convenience when it comes to where people need to buy alcohol. Save-On-Foods will continue to do extremely well without alcohol … but our small liquor outlets most likely will not survive.”

Buchanan said it is their priority to ensure all businesses large and small are able to “do well and be served.”

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

By Mina Kerr-Lazenby, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 11, 2023 at 14:07

This item reprinted with permission from   North Shore News   North Vancouver, British Columbia
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