If you want to open a private liquor store, known as a License Retail Store License (LRS) or wine store in BC, buying a liquor license from an existing establishment is currently your only option. A BC liquor license has become a rare commodity. The BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) has placed a moratorium on new applications for several types of retail liquor licenses, including Licensee Retail Stores, Wine Stores and Specialty Wine Store licenses. So suffice to say, you won’t be able to secure a new license for one of these businesses anytime soon.
Liquor Primary and UBrew/UVin licenses are still available, but unless you want to open a bar, pub, nightclub, or “brew-it-yourself” store, at this point in time, you’re out of luck when it comes to obtaining a new BC liquor license.
However, as mentioned, buying an existing license is a viable option. More on that later in this post.
The following are a few details about BC liquor license applications currently not being accepted.
The government has placed a moratorium on new licensee retail stores (LRS) until July 1, 2022. Referred to by the public as “private liquor stores”, LRS sell wine, beer, coolers, cider, and spirits.
The government has imposed an indefinite moratorium on new wine stores. Wine stores include Independent Wine Stores, Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wine stores, and tourism wine stores. A remote option for an Independent Wine Stores that wants to become a private liquor store, is to convert their license to an LRS license. We can help you with this process.
Speciality Wine Stores
New applications for Speciality Wine Stores (SWS) are not being accepted. SWS may sell all wine, cider, mead and sake. SWS are owned by and located within grocery stores that mainly sell food and non-alcoholic beverages. Of the 29 licenses in BC, 19 are owned by Save-On-Foods and 10 are owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd (Real Canadian Superstore).
Regardless of the moratorium, SWS licensing requirements are prohibitive, and the license is exorbitantly expensive. The grocery store must be at least 10,000 square feet, which puts smaller grocers out of the running. The BC government auctioned “dormant” licenses requiring a minimum bid of $125,000 and a $25,000 refundable deposit. Real Canadian Superstore spent $6.9 million on six licenses. Even if SWS licenses were available, most grocers can’t meet the requirements, nor can they afford a license bid.
Read more about these and other BC liquor licenses at the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch.
While the lack of available BC liquor licenses is one reason a business may consider buying a liquor license that currently exists, there are other benefits:
Purchasing a liquor store is costly (roughly 8 x EBITA), but it is currently the only option for business owners who wish to get into a turnkey operating store with the least amount of struggle and within a reasonable timeframe.
Read more about the pros and cons of buying a liquor storein our article “Should I Buy a Liquor Store or Build a Liquor Store?”.
If you’re considering buying a BC liquor license and/or the business it is attached to, contact Rebecca at Thrive Liquor & Cannabis Advisors first! Rebecca’s long-standing work in the BC retail liquor industry puts her in contact with potential sellers across the province.