Manitoba beer vendors, wine stores, rural liquor retailers could expand offerings under new bill

Manitobans could soon be able to buy more types of liquor at private alcohol retailers, as the government continues its push to overhaul the province’s licensing regime. 

A new bill introduced Thursday would give existing liquor, beer and wine stores the ability to apply for new licences, allowing all of those retailers to carry any type of alcohol sold by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.

That Crown corporation is responsible for the sale of liquor products in the province.

The new legislation would also allow the province to launch a five-year pilot project expanding liquor sales to more businesses, like grocery stores. Such a pilot project would have to go through a public consultation process before being considered by cabinet. 

The bill was introduced in the legislature by Scott Fielding, the minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corporation, “in order to create convenience for consumers and remove red tape for locally owned Manitoba small businesses,” he said.

Currently, the province has three main types of retail liquor licences: hotel beer vendor, specialty wine store, and liquor store, such as provincially owned Liquor Marts. There are also private vendors licensed to sell a wide array of alcohol in many rural communities.

Each licence holder is restricted to selling particular products.

For example, hotel beer vendors currently cannot sell hard alcohol or wine, and they must be on the same property as a hotel. 

That system “unnecessarily restricts what type of liquor can be sold at the type of stores,” said Fielding.

“What this means is that many Manitobans have to make multiple stops in order to purchase liquor products.”

The new Bill 42 — officially called The Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation Amendment and Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Amendment Act — would enable hotel beer vendors to apply for a new licence that would allow them to add liquor and wine. It would also remove the requirement that they operate in a hotel.

Specialty wine stores would also be able to sell hard liquor and beer under the legislation.

Boost for rural Manitobans: Fielding

Rural liquor vendors can currently sell hard liquor and wine, but can only sell beer in single-can quantities. The legislation would allow them to sell beer in cases.

The changes “will be especially beneficial to rural Manitobans, who currently need to drive extended distances to purchase different liquor products at different locations,” said Fielding.

Scott Jocelyn, president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association, applauded the government’s move. 

“The approach that has been chosen is in keeping with the long-standing relationship that hotels have with the government,” Jocelyn said at a news conference, alongside Fielding. 

“It recognizes the depth of experience [hotels have] selling alcohol safely and responsibly.”

As of April 1, there were 482 retail liquor locations currently in Manitoba: 63 Liquor Marts, 240 hotel vendors, 168 rural liquor vendors, eight specialty wine stores, and three duty-free stores, according to officials with Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.

The new bill is not expected to have any impact on the types of products available at Liquor Marts or duty-free stores. 

It follows Bill 38, introduced earlier this week, which would simplify the rules around which types of establishments can serve alcohol.