Victoria residents to have say on Hillside mall liquor store

Hillside Centre, now undergoing a major facelift, could be home to the largest government liquor store in Victoria.

Victoria councillors have approved sending an application from Hillside Centre for a retail liquor outlet to public hearing. Under city policy established in 2003, liquor stores are considered distinct from other retail and require rezoning.

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Both a city staff report and city planning chairwoman Coun. Marianne Alto confirmed the proposed tenant would be a B.C. Liquor Store.

“This application is arising as I understand from the interest of a government liquor store. Although it hasn’t been confirmed publicly as to the identity of the actual potential tenant, that is the origin of the application,” Alto said.

The new liquor store would be on the Hillside Avenue side of the mall in the space formerly occupied by Shoppers Drug Mart. If approved, the store would have a total floor area of 8,450 square feet of which 3,186 sq. ft. would be dedicated to warehouse and 5,263 sq. ft. used for retail sales. However, the actual floor space distribution would be up to the operator, the staff report says.

According to the staff report, the outlet would be the largest government liquor store in the city — about 950 sq. feet bigger than the next largest at Fort Street and Foul Bay Road, which is 7,502 sq. ft.

City policy recommends a maximum 2,152 sq. ft. total floor space for retail liquor outlets, but city staff say the larger size is acceptable within a mall setting and provides the potential to carry a full range of products.

At the private Hillside Liquor Store, which has operated just over the Saanich border at 3201 Shelbourne St. for nine years, a petition against the new government store is available for customers to sign.

General manager Stacey Brennan said she is concerned about the effect it could have on the business, which has 22 employees.

“They’re planning on doing a 8,500 [square-foot] store in there and that’s huge,” she said. “My floor space is about 3,300 square feet. So it’s a big store.”

Many of the neighbourhood comment sheets received by council express concerns about the competition the Hillside Liquor Store would face from a new liquor outlet in the mall, said Coun. Geoff Young. But, he said, that’s not a concern that is usually addressed by council.

“We invite that kind of comment with regard to liquor stores because we do have the approval mechanism. If it were a grocery store or a clothing store and we had the same kind of comments — that there’s already enough people selling clothes or enough people selling milk — I think we would say it’s not really our job to control competition,” Young said.

One of the advantages in having a liquor store in a mall rather than as a stand-alone outlet is added security, said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

“I’m still interested in hearing the concerns of the neighbours,” she said.

Coun. Shellie Gudgeon said she was heartened to hear the tenant could be a larger “signature” government liquor store which, she said, “could be a real boon for the area and for the mall.”

However, she said, she is somewhat concerned about the potential effect on policing costs.

“Every time we open one more outlet and one more bar and one more restaurant it all does have a dramatic effect, I think, on our policing costs. I think we need to have some kind of brainstorming session on how can we marry those two concerns,” Gudgeon said.

Asked about plans for a store in Hillside Centre, the Liquor Distribution Branch emailed a statement saying it regularly has discussions with property owners about potential retail opportunities but does not comment on such discussions.

“B.C. Liquor Stores is one of the largest retailers in the province and has a responsibility to explore real estate opportunities to ensure it consistently delivers customers an excellent retail experience in locations that will best meet the needs of those customers,” said Vince Cournoyer, LDB spokesman.

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