If you are a regular visitor to farmers’ markets across the region, you have probably noticed the presence of local wineries, breweries and spirit makers. But if you are a regular at the Goldstream Station Market in Langford, you may have noticed their absence.
Last year a new batch of provincial liquor policy changes took effect, allowing beer, wine, cider and spirits to be sampled and sold alongside other local products at farmers’ markets across B.C. While heavily regulated by both the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets, many markets have embraced this new crop of vendors.
A representative of the Luxton Station Market Society stood before Langford council at Monday’s meeting, seeking permission to allow such vendors to provide samples of their products at the popular Goldstream Station Market in Veterans Memorial Park.
That market, unlike most on the lower Island that take place in parking lots or on private property, is housed in a park. As such, the new liquor policies conflict with local bylaws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in public parks.
Society vice-president Ingelise Pollock reiterated to councillors that items such as wine would be purchased for off-site consumption and would not be tapped into at the market.
The only consumption would be sampling, which is regulated for the amount given and requires tasters to consume samples within the confines of the vendor’s allotted space. Pollock noted that vendors would check ID and adhere to strict liquor laws.
Coun. Matt Sahlstrom wondered if sampling was different than consumption under the Liquor Act, although no one in attendance seemed to know the answer. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
“We have to do some housekeeping on it,” said acting mayor, Coun. Lillian Szpak. “I think we need to tidy up our bylaw.”
City staff members on hand confirmed bylaws could be amended to allow for sampling at the market and suggested bringing forward a recommendation to council if they chose to pursue it further.
“I have a problem, because Veterans Park was originally developed for families and for veterans,” said Coun. Lanny Seaton. “Our bylaw says you are not to have alcohol in a public park.”
He said he would not have a problem with market vendors offering alcohol samples if they did so on the Masonic Hall property across from the park. The society is looking into that option, which would cost about $300 in rent, Pollock said.
Szpak reminded council that they were the ones who asked the society to move the market to the park in the first place, believing it to be a more suitable location. She also pointed out that there has been a beer garden in the park in past.
“I think the points that are being made are very good and very valid,” she said, reiterating that council wanted to remain respectful to the legacy of veterans and the park. She voiced support for the motion put forward by Sahlstrom, to ask staff to look into the matter further and bring back a recommendation.
With Mayor Stew Young, and councillors Denise Blackwell and Roger Wade absent, the motion was defeated 2-1, with Seaton and Coun. Winnie Sifert voting against and Sahlstrom in favour.
After the meeting, Pollock expressed her frustration with council’s decision, adding that she didn’t understand how sampling a locally grown and made product was disrespectful to veterans. “It’s just another form of a farm product,” she said. “It’s all just processing.”
She said the market wanted to stay at its current location because of its family friendly ambience. “It’s a very pleasant atmosphere and we’d like it to remain that way.”