Winterlong Brewing co-owner Marko Marjanovic says he is in favour of the proposed liquor law changes to allow the sale of beer and liquor in commercial stores, as long as it’s done responsibly. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Yukon government releases survey on the territory’s liquor laws

Changes could include allowing sale of booze in grocery stores

Changes to liquor laws under consideration by the Yukon government include possibly allowing the sale of liquor in grocery stores.

The government released a survey this week to gather public feedback as part of a review of the Liquor Act and regulations.

The review is the first major overhaul of the rules since 2001, according to the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Smaller changes have been happening periodically, most recently in 2016.

Amendments to the act are expected to be tabled in the legislative assembly next fall.

The public is being asked its opinion on a series of topics including the availability of alcohol, the government’s social responsibility, and whether alcohol should be sold in grocery stores or private retail locations.

“It’s true that in some jurisdictions in Canada that (liquor sold in grocery stores) is possible. I think that if the public wants to have that suggestion we’re open to hearing it,” said John Streicker, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

“While I have heard that opinion I’m certainly not making a suggestion one way or the other.”

Streicker said the legislation is due for a “refresh.”

Along with making sure the rules are socially responsible, Streicker said the government is looking at ways to support local producers and licensees.

In addition to six government-run liquor stores, Yukon has almost 150 licensed liquor establishments including off-sales.

Marko Marjanovic, co-owner of Yukon Winterlong Brewing, said that over the last year a government consultant has met with industry representatives to gather their concerns.

Marjanovic said there are a few changes to regulations for manufacturers he would like to see.

Even when Winterlong is selling bottles or growlers of beer directly from its business on Mount Sima Road the government takes the same markup it would if the beer was going to be sold in government retails stores, he said.

He’s hoping that markup can be reduced or eliminated all together.

It’s meant to cover the costs of warehousing the beer and shipping it to its store shelves, Marjanovic said.

“If we sell it here they don’t touch it here at all, but we pay the same markup.”

Marjanovic said he’d also like the ability to sell alcohol directly to licensees.

Currently a business with a license to sell liquor has to order any beer it wants through the liquor corporation and everything has to be picked up from the warehouse, he said.

In some cases it might be more convenient for people to pick up their beer directly from the brewery, he said. The warehouse is only open Monday to Friday.

Lastly, Marjanovic said there could be changes to how the markup on beer is decided.

The regulations could be updated so the markup on packaged beer is based on the number of litres in a bottle, not a percentage of the overall cost. That’s similar to a change that was made to the way kegs are priced last year.

If the markup were a flat rate based on the size of the bottle “the premium beers wouldn’t be taxed as heavily,” he said.

Marjanovic said he is in favour of having beer and liquor sold in commercial stores and other private places, “as long as it’s done responsibly.”

For his part, Yukon Brewing’s co-founder Bob Baxter would only say that it’s important liquor legislation and regulations are current and in line with modern social standards.

“As a result, we at Yukon Brewing welcome this review, and look forward to seeing the results of the public consultation,” he said in an email.

“We also look forward to working with the Yukon Liquor Corporation through their planned stakeholder scoping meetings.”

The survey is running until Dec. 15. According to the corporation’s website public meetings will be scheduled sometime after the survey results are collected.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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