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Bloody Sunday

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Province backing off on Sunday openings

It may be great for the tourism industry, but local beer and wine store owners say Sunday opening is bad for business

For the first time since Oct. 1 – the day that the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch first opened the doors of its Whistler stores on a Sunday – Bonnie Casavant is feeling optimistic.

Under pressure from the B.C. and Yukon Hotel Association, which appealed to the business sense and fairness of Small Business, Tourism and Culture Minister Gerard Janssen, the Liquor Distribution Branch has agreed to once again close the MarketPlace liquor store on Sundays, effective Dec. 16. By Dec. 17, Casavant said that Sunday revenues at her store were back to normal.

Casavant estimates that her Blackcomb Cold Beer and Wine store lost about $14,000, or slightly less than 50 per cent of revenues, since the provincial government gave the go-ahead to open Whistler’s two liquor stores on Sunday.

"It had a large effect on our business, that’s for sure," says Casavant. "Even we were surprised at just how large."

To make a case against Sunday opening, she compared this year’s Sunday sales to last year’s, and used the receipts from Chef Bernard’s café next door (which she runs with her husband, Bernard) as a control. If business was down in both establishments, for example, it might indicate that it was a slow business day.

On the first day that the liquor stores in Village Square and the MarketPlace were open, business at the Blackcomb Beer and Wine Store was down almost 30 per cent, while business at the café was down 12 per cent. The following Sunday, revenues at the beer and wine store were down 51 per cent while business at the café was up 18 per cent. One Sunday (Oct. 29), beer and wine store business was down an incredible 77 per cent compared to the same Sunday a year earlier, while business at the café was up 109 per cent.

Since Sunday sales account for approximately 30 per cent of her beer and wine store’s weekly sales, Casavant says there was a chance that the store might have been forced out of business. She even considered taking legal action against the Liquor Distribution Branch at one point, but held off in on the assurance that the government was looking into the matter.

Section 9a of the Surich report – an independent review of provincial liquor regulations with recommendations for modernizing the industry – stated that the opening of government stores on Sundays, while positive, should be done in such a way as to ensure minimal impact on existing liquor retailers. This was a minimum condition for Sunday opening that Whistler’s beer and wine stores say that the government overlooked when it gave its approval.

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