City council is content to let the free market decide how many liquor stores can survive in Grande Prairie. For the second time Liquor store owner Andrew Cho appeared before council to raise concerns about the impact corporately run stores in particular are having on local business owners in a saturated market.
Cho says there are 48 stores located in Grande Prairie compared to 23 in Fort McMurray. Ft Mac has an additional 3,000 people compared to GP.
During the meeting Mayor Bill Given raised concerns about Cho’s desire to differentiate between locally run/independent stores, franchise stores and corporately owned ones. Given says this topic seems to come up within every council cycle.
“In the past councils have typically fallen on the side of a free market based approach. That says that we don’t limit the number of businesses that can locate in Grande Prairie and we don’t limit the number of businesses that locate in Grande Prairie based on ownership.”
In 2015 the Daily Herald Tribune crunched the numbers and determined that on a per capita basis Grande Prairie led the province for the number of liquor store located in city limits.
“The ratio of city residents versus liquor stores is approximately 1,448:1, less than half the count from larger cities like Calgary (3,333:1) and 1,000 fewer than the next lowest, Edmonton (2,468:1).”
The paper also compared Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray.
“Fort McMurray’s population is close to Grande Prairie, about 61,374, but with 24 liquor stores its customer base per liquor store is 2,557:1.”
In the past Cho says the suggestion was made by former Councillor Helen Rice to have the city issue permits for liquor stores. That would allow them to implement their own guidelines like Calgary and Edmonton have done. AGLC has nothing to do with selecting store locations but Cho says in his conversations with AGLC they have been open to working with the city.
Dylan Bressey was the only member of council who was interested in launching a “discussion about having a discussion”, but no other Councillors supported the motion. Yad Minhas did express interest in potential zoning regulations around schools and other facilities in the future.