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Liquor sales are a possibility in Alberta grocery stores, but expect pushback

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Alberta's alcohol industry is pushing back against a provincial government consideration to allow liquor sales in grocery and convenience stores.  

Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally said last week a panel of MLAs has been exploring the idea since December.

His office says it has already consulted with Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), warehouses, current retailers, grocery and convenience store operators, producers and responsible-use advocates Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). 

"We heard about some innovative things that Ontario is doing, getting liquor on the grocery shore shelves, and I wouldn't be doing my job as the minister if we didn't take a look at it," Nally said. 

That "innovative" move out east will see Ontario's government allow sales of beer, wine, coolers and seltzers at select supermarkets and convenience stores in 2026. 

Ontario’s alcohol sales are largely done through government-operated retailers, whereas Alberta's industry has been privatized for decades.

Many in Alberta's alcohol industry say the change could prove disastrous.

"There's no need for another point of sale for liquor," Alberta Liquor Store Association president Ivonne Martinez said.

"I've never received a phone call saying, 'I cannot get liquor in enough places, please open up more points of sale.' It has just never happened."

Martinez tells CTV News a large chunk of Alberta's 1,700 independently-owned stores would be hit hard by the new competition. 

"Small businesses already have very little margin to work with, so even a 10 per cent decrease in sales would be devastating," she said. "Nobody is asking for this. So why try to fix a problem that is not broken?"

The owner of Wise Guys Liquor in northeast Calgary agrees. 

"I'm in a week-by-week situation," Sean Semark said. "I buy what we need and make sure we turn a profit every week. That's my business model, compared to the big guys, who have almost unlimited purchasing power."

Nally made a point of emphasizing that no final decisions have been made. 

In fact, the minister said he's still waiting on the panel's report before commenting again. 

He says that could come in "weeks or months."

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