Change to Save-On-Foods wine application changes minds

By Jill Sperling
July 13, 2016 - 4:40pm Updated: July 13, 2016 - 6:15pm

KAMLOOPS — A small change in wording has made all the difference in the fight to sell wine at Save-On Foods.

In May, Kamloops City Council had voted 5-2 against a bylaw variance that would allow the Summit Drive location of the store the ability to sell wine. Councillors were concerned with, among other things, the wording of the original application.

However, with a few tweaks to the paperwork, and a lot of discussion, most of the councillors' worries were put to rest.

WATCH: Full report by Jill Sperling

Several councillors who had originally opposed the bylaw variance that would allow BC VQA wine to be sold on the shelves of the grocery store - less than one kilometre from existing liquor license holders - were swayed to reconsider when the words 'sake' and 'cider' were removed from the permit. At yesterday's (July 12) regular scheduled meeting, the variance was approved by a vote of 5-1. 

"I wasn't comfortable with having such a broad, basically BC products liquor store within the grocery store itself," Councillor Donovan Cavers said. "So when they came back with their amended application saying just specifically VQA wines I was a lot more comfortable with that." 

Cavers was one of five councillors who had originally opposed the sale of wine at Save-On, but he now says his concerns about store security and international trade conflicts have been addressed.

"(Save-On Foods representatives) explained VQA is not sort of a geographical parameter," Cavers said. "Because when you limit products to a certain geography that's where international trade arguments they can say, 'well you're being protectionist, you're just allowing BC products,' but the VQA is different. It's BC, but it's also certain standards that they have to meet so it ... can't be disputed through international trade agreements." 

When the vote was taken, only Councillor Denis Walsh remained in opposition to the bylaw variance. Mayor Peter Milobar and Councillor Arjun Singh excused themselves from the discussion to prevent a conflict of interest. Councillor Pat Wallace was not present at the meeting.

Prior to council's vote people on both sides of the debate were allowed to voice their thoughts on the issue.

Al Deacon, owner of the Sahali Liquor Store, chose not to speak at the lengthy meeting, but has stood against the variance from the beginning. He says the wording of the initial license was a concern. 

"We were a little disappointed with the outcome, but I think Save-On could have done the right thing months ago and asked for then what they asked for yesterday," Deacon said. "They kind of, I think, tried to pull the wool over councillors' eyes. The only councillors that got it right the first go-around were the ones that voted against the variance because what Save-on was asking for initially wasn't the original Discovery license." 

Even though the council meeting resulted in the approval of the variance, and wine could be on Save-On Foods' shelves as early as this fall, Deacon is glad the issue has been dealt with. 

"The right things were said, the right things were heard and we'll just have to compete on a daily basis, which we already do." 

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