Cost of booze at liquor agency stores quietly raised

Teresa Wright
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It now costs Islanders more for the convenience of getting their booze at liquor agency stores, thanks to a quiet price hike earlier this month.

Prices for beer, wine and spirits at the seven liquor agency stores in P.E.I. went up five per cent for consumers on May 1st.

Tourism Minister Robert Henderson, whose department oversees the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission, said Tuesday the change was made on the premise of convenience.

“The agency stores are all in locations that are a bit more convenient, you don’t have to go as far to get to a normal, corporate outlet, and so the five per cent is a way to reflect that,” Henderson told reporters Tuesday.

“It does also provide our corporate stores with a little bit more of an advantage, and for those that are price conscious, they still have the corporate stores, which will go on the same pricing concept as in past.”

Profits from this price increase will be split between the PEILCC and the private agency retailer.

The estimated increase in revenue for the province from this increase is estimated to be around $150,000.

Henderson acknowledged it was partly a revenue-driven decision.

“We hope it will generate a little more income to the Liquor Control Commission as well to the agencies themselves,” he said.

“But there is a little extra work that goes with providing the support to those agency stores… we just felt this would be a little way to get a little more cost recovery on doing that.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers says he believes this shows the agency stores have been hurting the bottom line for the provincial liquor outlets.

The P.E.I. Liquor Commission turned only a small profit last year and did not hit its budget targets, which has forced it to lower its revenue expectations for this year.

According to the PEILCC’s 2013 annual report, the agency stores were deemed a success, accounting for a 10 per cent increase in new volumes of alcohol sold.

But their success did indeed come at the expense of some provincial retail outlets.

The North Rustico liquor store, which feared losing business to the new agency store in Cavendish, ended 2013 at a loss of $80,721 in gross receipts. The West Royalty location also posted a loss of $129,820.

Even the commission's flagship store in Charlottetown lost money, posting a loss of over $318,000 in 2013.

Myers says he believes Premier Robert Ghiz should open up the playing field to allow more private operators to sell alcohol, now that he is allowing a price differentiation.

“If he’s putting the price up and calling it a convenience item, now it should be open for more of the corner stores to sell.”

Selling booze is a big money maker for these private stores, and more Island operators should have access to these products, Myers said.

“I think doors need to be opened up to other businesses, who could meet the requirements of providing that service,” Myers said.

“They need to be fair to businesses, and businesses are suffering on Prince Edward Island.”

When the issue was debated during budget estimates last week, several MLAs mentioned retailers in their ridings who would like the opportunity to become a liquor agency.

But Henderson said, with the decreases in sales already happening at some of the provincial outlets, he is not looking to expand number of agency stores at this time.

“The whole idea of agency stores were to get a net gain,” Henderson said.

“There’s a point of limiting returns… it’s still about trying to find that balance that still protects our workers and staff and not have a huge impacts on that, and still have some gains and that sense of convenience to the consumers.”

Organizations: P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission

Geographic location: Cavendish, West Royalty, Charlottetown Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • huh
    May 14, 2014 - 15:55

    so you have a demand for your product, and you open up some more stores to meet that demand, then you deem those stores a "convenience" because people now no longer have to travel all the way to the original stores. So you charge extra. That has to be the most asinine load of BS I have heard this week. That's like the McDonald's in Stratford charging a premium for McBurgers because you don't have to drive all the way to University Ave. How about this: Scale back the liquor commission; open up your antiquated liquor laws and offer more selection, more competition; and stop paying cashiers $20 a hour.

  • broke
    May 14, 2014 - 11:35

    who cares? I can live without booze. I'm more upset about the ever increasing cost of gas, food, increases in property taxes and my stagnating salary.

  • whitehead
    May 14, 2014 - 09:58

    So if the Gov. is so eager to get money, why are they not allowing canned non-alcoholic beer in our grocery stores??? Instead people go to the mainland and pay the taxes and deposits there, -- money that our government is giving up because of some archaic notion not to allow Islanders the privilege of enjoying Non-alcoholic beer. I know repeat visitors are bringing their own because of this dumb restriction. I guess they don't care about people that don't want to get drunk -------or is it just plain stupidity--?

  • Binge Drinker
    May 14, 2014 - 09:42

    Liquor is cheaper elsewhere because the government subsidizes it. The states has huge subsidies on liquor and tobacco that's why it's so cheap. We are a have not province so our government is going to try and get money from whatever means possible. The LAST thing the government would do is privatize liquor stores. The government made $43 million on taxes last year from alcohol and tobacco. They also made $12 million off liquor profits [statscanada]. If you don't like it then vote for change.

  • Taxed to the hilt!
    May 14, 2014 - 08:42

    Just another tax grab, split 50-50, to reward the Liberal friends who own these liquor outlets. I wonder what Wes and Ghiz will tax next. Remember; Wes will not index our provincial income tax deduction to the CPI, and says that it is a great idea to index out provincial property taxes to the CPI. What a waste of good oxygen!!!!

  • wisp22
    May 14, 2014 - 08:23

    If citizens are required to pay a 5% surcharge on "convenience", what does that say about the quality of life in this province? What does that say about the quality of thought behind the decisions of the provincial politicans?

  • charles
    May 14, 2014 - 07:45

    Because of the pathetic choice of beer on PEI I decided to get into all grain home craft brewing. Yes I did have to buy some special equipment but the results are amazing. The payback is not very long and it has turned into a great hobby. Oh by the way I stopped buying liquor. 40 dollars a bottle I dont need it that bad.

  • Prices
    May 14, 2014 - 07:21

    Prices of beer in regular outlets have been going up STEADILY over the last 1 1/2 years. Imported beer has gone up over $1 can in many cases. Ridiculous. Of course tourist season is coming up & even though there are constantly reports in the news about how visitors find PEI so expensive, the govt tends to think it should be more expensive to visit here. No wonder the tourist numbers are declining every year. Should put a sign up at the bridge & ferry - enjoy our expensive party this year, but watch out for the huge potholes in the roads.

  • Who needs.......
    May 14, 2014 - 06:51

    Who needs tourists anyway? After this year where were are spending MILLIONS of dollars to draw tourists to this joke of a 2014 party there will be a sharp decline in tourism. Why would they come to the most expensive place in Canada when the liberal party has done nothing to improve the Island.

  • Wow
    May 14, 2014 - 06:32

    Wow... ok something is seriously wrong if you are losing that kind of money! Come on get your heads out of the sand and privatize these stores! You can't run our Island so we know you sure and hell can't run our liquor stores! Damn after reading this I need a drink!

  • Mike C
    May 14, 2014 - 05:36

    The Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island are totally out of control. The cost on Everything is raised unjustly. Last year when HST came in, some things were to suppose to be cheaper. Such things as liquor. What does Ghiz and Wes do? Caliborate the prices so that they make even more money of liquor. The citizens of PEI cannot be paying the highest costs for everything, while making the less amount of household earnings. If you cannot solve the Islands financial issues by others means, then please step down. We need an economy that is growing and to figure out how to increase our tax base.

  • getting tired
    May 14, 2014 - 05:15

    You know Gov of P.E.I., I the middle man am really getting tired of you charging more and more for every aspect of life on this Island!!! just how much more do you seem to think people can take of your increases? our wage does not go up, but yet in every aspect I am paying more for everything!! and just an FYI, even if the exchange on the dollar isn't good, as soon as I drive across the boarder into the U.S. the price of everything drops!! for example our now even more for spirits, is less than 1/2 especially for beer! all tax, and we see nothing for it!!! Good job Gov, good job!

  • Dave
    May 14, 2014 - 05:05

    I know our beer and spirits are better quality than US but to be double the price, come on give us a break! The gas prices drive you to drink...... Now what do we do. Got to love our government. :-(

    • PEIHomeBrewer
      May 14, 2014 - 06:02

      @Dave "I know our beer and spirits are better quality than US..." Dave, what gave you that silly idea? Some of the best beer in the world is made in the US. No, I am not talking about Budweiser. Ever hear of Dogfish head, Stone, Rouge, heck, Sam Adam's? I suggest you watch the documentary "Beer Wars".

    • grapes
      May 14, 2014 - 06:03

      Totally untrue statement. Products like capt. Morgan are cheaper because government apply very litte or no taxes like N.H.

    • Beer drinker
      May 14, 2014 - 17:20

      I was in Boston 3 weeks ago and stopped at a small liquor store and took a picture of a box of Moosehead beer (12 pack) in the imported beer section selling $12.40, later at a gas station in Maine I purchased a 1.75L bottle of extra aged premiumCanadian Club for $22.30

  • don
    May 14, 2014 - 00:12

    i told you wes needs the money as he has some big liberals needing money over the next year so he has to get it one way or the other. glad to see the booze going up. but it just means less food on the table for the kids as the drunks needs the fix. i hope ghiz and his gang has many sleepless nights but you have to have a heart to care.