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The P.E.I. government plans to proceed with a liquor outlet in Cavendish despite concerns from North Rustico residents
Prince Edward Island is the only province in the region seeing a profit in liquor sales so far this year, thanks in part to five new agency stores opened over the last year.
Jamie MacLeod, director of corporate services for the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission said, as of the end of August, gross sales overall in the province were up approximately 1.5 per cent.
While this is far less than what the commission had projected to take in this year, it is better than sales figures in the other three Atlantic provinces.
“The internal reports that we receive from those provinces indicate that, of the four Atlantic provinces, we’re the only one on the plus side of sales overall year-to-date,” MacLeod said. “The others are all down.”
The P.E.I. Liquor Commission experienced a banner year last year, selling over $95 million worth of booze.
In its 2012 annual report, the commission projected further sales growth this year of nine per cent, or over $103 million.
But the 19 provincially owned and operated liquor stores saw a drop in sales this year of approximately 5.5. per cent, MacLeod said.
He cited a number of factors he believes contributed to this, including increased out-migration and the difficulties many Islanders are facing in finding employment.
“Obviously liquor can be not necessarily the first priority of any individual and family, therefore when it comes to disposable income, the economic climate of the province would certainly be a big factor in this.”
Nonetheless the liquor commission is still seeing the small overall 1.5 per cent increase in gross profits this year thanks to the introduction of five new agency stores.
The first of these privately owned stores began selling alcohol just over a year ago.
MacLeod would not give any financial data about them, as they are privately owned and operated.
But he said they are performing well.
“Overall they’re doing what they would anticipated they would do. That’s good.”
Despite this success, MacLeod said there are currently no plans to expand this program and allow more private stores to sell booze.
“At this point in time we think we have enough in the system. That’s always subject to change, of course, but at this point in time that’s what is in place and that’s what we’re going to live with for now,” he said.
But Mike Hammoud, president of the Atlantic Convenience Store Association, says the sale of alcohol should be available to all convenience stores in Prince Edward Island.
“We’d like to see some sort of criteria put in place that, if it’s met, all stores could have the opportunity to sell the product.”
Hammoud acknowledged the liquor commission did seek input from his association before implementing its agency store model and that the province has made some good first steps.
But he believes it would be fairer to allow any and all convenience store owners who wish to sell alcohol the opportunity to do so.
“I just don’t think it’s a level playing field. You can’t blame the stores, it’s not the stores’ fault,” Hammoud said. “Those that get it are obviously winners and those that don’t are obviously losers and that’s why we would like to see it opened up to more stores.”