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Extended liquor store hours hurt private cold beer and wine stores

Sunday openings in Whistler may be here for the long run



The 2010 Olympics may be the catalyst for allowing Whistler's provincial liquor stores to open on Sundays but it's a surprise decision that may stick in the long term.

And that will have devastating effects on the three private cold beer and wine stores in Whistler, some of which have had their licences for a decade and a half.

The provincial government's recent move caught them completely unawares, with no prior consultation or notice and has left them steaming mad.

"Totally betrayed," said Karen Roland, of Roland's Creekside Pub and Beer and Wine Store.

"This is just undermining the small business in Whistler."

Already, since the government liquor stores opened for business on Sunday, Dec. 6, the private stores have seen a marked decline in their business.

"The first Sunday I would say right off the bat it probably knocked 10 to 20 per cent off (sales) and that was without anyone knowing about it or it being announced," said Andrew Ellott, owner of the Nester's Liquor Store. "But over the course of the next few weeks it could potentially take half of our Sunday business away, if not more. And Sunday is such a big day for us. You can't underestimate (it) when you're the only place around that can sell, it's a big part of our business. If it wasn't for Sunday, you really couldn't survive."

All three private liquor store owners were under the assumption early this week that the government's decision was a Games-time decision, designed to meet the burgeoning need of the 55,000 guests expected here each night during the Olympics.

But according to the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, there is no timeline yet on ending the new hours or service. No one at the LDB was available for comment.

MLA Joan McIntyre said her understanding is the new hours will remain in effect beyond the Games. As Whistler's stature is enhanced with the 2010 Games, she said, the resort has to meet the expectations of its clientele.

"I was told pretty clearly that the decision was made because Whistler is one of the most high profile tourism destinations in all of North America, catering to an international clientele," McIntyre said. "And with 2010 coming up and our image and our profile being enhanced by that... that basically the rationale was that tourists from around the world would be expecting in a town like Whistler... the convenience of being able to shop for those kinds of product seven days a week."

When told that Sunday openings could be here to stay, Roland said that news was very worrisome.