Goldstream Station Market has become known as the place to go on Saturdays throughout the summer for fresh produce and home-crafted goods.
It doesn’t look like this is the year where you’ll also be able to get a freshly-brewed beer or locally-vinted wine.
Luxton Station Market Society, which operates the market, recently requested permission from Langford city council to add a three-hour market on Wednesday evenings this summer. They were also hoping to add craft beer to the menu of offerings available. Langford is allowing the former, but not the latter.
Last June, the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch changed its rules and began letting manufacturers sell their products at farmer’s markets. Since then there has been an ongoing debate amongst many municipalities across the province over whether to allow the practice.
Langford proved no exception to the trend of municipalities hesitating to allow liquor sales at these types of venues, voting down the prospect at a recent council meeting.
Currently, the only alcohol permitted in a city park is that covered under a Special Occasion License, issued by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. The type of license that would be required for the market to incorporate craft beer or other alcohol sales, however, would be a “Manufacturers License.” As such, Langford’s parks bylaw would need to be amended in order for sales and tastings to not contravene both city bylaws and the licensing branch’s directive.
Council is unwilling to do that at this time.
Jane Waters, park planner for the City of Langford, says that although she can’t speak for council as to why the bylaw amendment was rejected, one of her concerns is simply the aspect of overcrowding.
“We feel that the park is pretty darned overcrowded already,” she said. With the market’s growth over the years, and the recent playground and splash park upgrades, there is a risk of the park becoming “oversubscribed,” she said, if an additional facet of community business was to join in.
Since it’s also a memorial park, with a major cenotaph and various military and commemorative plaques, council must give consideration to all community groups who utilize the park, some of which may find alcohol sales as disrespectful, Waters said.
“I guess Langford doesn’t feel it lives up to some kind of vision they have about families and being family-friendly,” said Kate King, president of the Luxton Station Market Society.
“But I also don’t think they have a good idea about how it would be set up and aren’t considering the benefits to the local economy.”
She uses the Cowichan Valley farmers’ market in Duncan as an example of how alcohol sales can be incorporated successfully. On a trip there to check out what they were doing, King said, “there were at least seven vendors selling everything from beer to wine to spirits. And it was not only incorporated seamlessly, but everything was being monitored very well, everybody was getting carded (asked for identification) properly and it was just a really good vibe.”
Andy Johnston of Averill Creek Vineyard, who sells product at the Duncan Market, was shocked when informed of Langford’s decision.
“Why on Earth would they do that?” he asked. “It’s a natural extension of the market. If it’s a locally farmed and produced product being sold at a local farmer’s market, it’s exactly the reason farmer’s markets exist.”
Johnston said visibility of their wines at the market has dramatically increased both direct sales and indirect ones, by boosting awareness of their products.
“A lot of the patrons of our market aren’t from the Cowichan Valley at all, but they come down from up Island or up from Victoria, so the exposure is really important, and it’s working,” he said.
“It’s also an extremely cost-effective retail outlet. It costs me $15 to get a table there, so it’s very good from a business perspective, and it’s great for the community, as well. If you asked anybody here, both vendors and patrons, they will all say it’s been a very good addition to the market.”
Jenny Garlini of Cowichan Valley’s Blue Grouse Estate Winery agreed.
“I realize I’m a bit biased, because I sell at the market, but I have nothing but positive things to say about it. We’ve had nothing but great, positive response from customers and vendors,” she said.
Fellow vintner Sarah Cosman of Unsworth Vineyards added that they’ve had “wonderful feedback from the locals and tourists with comments such as how nice it is to have the local wine so accessible.” The positive responses often come from people happy to be able to get everything they need in one place, she said.
“Having craft beverage producers at the markets is yet another great reason for shoppers to come out and support local vegetable growers, sausage makers, cheesemakers, bakers, florists, artists, and more – at all once.”
King said the resistance may be coming from people with preconceived notions about alcohol in general and the perceived atmosphere vendors would bring to the market.
“It’s not like these are drug dealers,” she said, laughing. “These are responsible business people that are selling products they’re making here and are totally legal. Supporting them supports the local economy and I think that’s better than catering to huge corporations, personally.”
While disappointed by the decision, King still hopes to eventually incorporate craft beer sales into the market.
“We just have to do more research, gather more information and get testimonials from places that are already doing it,” she says, “then bring those back to council again to show them the benefit it’s providing for other communities – and get them to reconsider.”