The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) and BC Liquor Stores are kicking off celebrations to mark a century of serving the Province of British Columbia.
On June 15, 1921, the Liquor Control Board (LCB) opened the first of nine government liquor stores, officially marking an end to prohibition.
“Fewer than 100 products were available, and all were behind a counter,” said Blain Lawson, LDB general manager and CEO. “If you wanted to buy anything you had to be 21 years of age or older and buy an annual permit for $5, or a one-time permit for 50 cents.”
Fifty-one stores had been established by the end of the first fiscal year, when the LCB reported a net profit of $1.7 million.
In addition to importing alcohol products from across Canada and around the world, the LCB bottled its own brand of whisky, brandy and rum.
“We received shipments of full-proof alcohol – scotch from Scotland, brandy from France and rum from Jamaica. The bottling department would then dilute the product with water, bottle and finally distribute to government stores for sale,” Lawson said.
The practice ended in 1988 after almost 250 million bottles were sold.
In 1975, after the LCB head office relocated from Victoria to Vancouver, the provincial government separated the regulation and licencing from distribution, thereby creating the LDB and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (now the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch).
In 1988, the provincial government allowed for the introduction of private retail liquor stores and BC Liquor Stores (BCLS) adapted to compete, opening on evenings and weekends, and working with B.C.-based wineries and craft brewers to grow the province’s liquor manufacturing sector.
“Today, we’re one of B.C.’s largest, most customer-centric retailers, the hub of a large distribution network, a provincially recognized top employer and a sustainability leader,” Lawson said.
The LDB supports registered local charities by accepting applications for the placement of coin donation receptacles in stores and works with other non-profits like the Canadian Red Cross and Food Banks BC to solicit donations on their behalf.
“Since we entered into a partnership with Food Banks of BC in 2020, our customers have helped us raise over $1.5 million dollars to provide food relief to people in need all across the province,” Lawson said. “That’s something we are all very proud of.”
BCLS will kick off a year of activities and events with a celebration sale starting on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Exclusive offerings include:
- Aviation gin: 100 bottles signed by Ryan Reynolds are available at BCLS in Langley (201 Street); Kelowna Orchard Park; Park Royal (West Vancouver); and in Vancouver at Alberni and Bute, and 39th and Cambie. Price is $37.99. One bottle per person, one day only.
- Angel’s Envy Kentucky straight bourbon: available at 39th and Cambie, Kelowna Orchard Park, Fort Street (Victoria), and Langley. Priced at $74.99. One bottle per person, one day only.
- White Claw hard seltzer variety pack 24 cans: $39.99, save $10, one day only.
- Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon whisky 1.75 L: $74.99, save $10.
- Glenmorangie 10 year old scotch 1.75 L: $59.99, save $100. One bottle per person, one day only.
- Penfolds Grange red wine 750 ml: Priced at $899, save $100.
According to Lawson, the LDB has changed as a result of the pandemic and will continue to be shaped by this experience. “The flexibility that has been displayed in order to adapt to these changes has been incredible. From digesting constantly updated information to pivoting to new protocols and procedures – employees have gracefully managed it all. Thanks to their resiliency, I think we’ll come out of this stronger than before.”
The LDB contributes more than $1.1 billion annually to the Province of British Columbia. Contributions help provide financial support for vital public services, including health care and education.