In 2007, the City of Edmonton introduced a rule requiring new liquor stores to be at least 500 metres apart from other liquor stores. The separation distance requirement was intended to curb the proliferation of liquor stores along established commercial shopping corridors, such as Jasper Avenue, Whyte Avenue, 107 Avenue, Stony Plain Road, 118 Avenue and 97 Street.
Following the implementation of the separation distance requirement, concerns were raised that it restricted liquor retailer competition in large suburban commercial sites designed to serve a sizable population.
As a result, further changes to the rule were passed in 2016 to allow more than one liquor store at major intersections in suburban areas. The 500 metre limit remains in place for commercial streets in mature areas of the city. Liquor stores also have to be 100 metres from parks and schools, including in suburban areas.
The effectiveness of the 500 metre separation distance requirements in limiting the proliferation of new liquor stores in mature areas, or curbing social disorder have not been evaluated since the regulation was brought into effect.
Additionally, there is concern that the separation distance requirements may still be overly restricting competition, giving existing liquor store retailers an unfair market advantage. Associated with this concern is that limited competition may remove the incentive for businesses to operate good business practices.
In consideration of this, Council passed a motion on Tuesday January 23, 2018, directing administration to explore options for managing the impacts of liquor stores. This work will involve exploring all options for regulating liquor stores differently than current practice, including, but not limited to, amending separation distances.
At the Tuesday October 2, 2018, Urban Planning Committee meeting, City staff presented CR_5604 - Options for Managing Impacts of Major and Minor Alcohol Sales (Item 6.1). The report identified the impacts associated with liquor stores, an analysis of the effectiveness of the City’s existing liquor store policies, and best practices to manage the impacts.
The report also included options for regulating liquor stores differently than current practice, based on research findings and feedback received through public and stakeholder engagement.
In response to the presentation and discussion, Council directed City staff to report back with:
- draft amendments that would provide an opportunity area in the downtown to allow new liquor stores to be located less than 500 metres from existing liquor stores,
- draft design regulations to improve the safety and appearance for new liquor stores citywide, and
- information related the impact of liquor store concentration in entertainment districts, separation of liquor stores from sensitive uses, Subdivision and Development Appeal Board decisions related to liquor and cannabis stores, and how the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission regulates liquor stores and enforces its policies.
More information about the motion passed by Council can be found in the Tuesday October 2, 2018, Urban Planning Committee meeting minutes (Item 6.1).
At the Tuesday March 5, 2019, Urban Planning Committee meeting, City staff presented CR_6497 - Amendments to Zoning Bylaw 12800 - Major and Minor Alcohol Sales in the Downtown Core - Exemptions to Separation Distance Requirements (Item 6.2), and CR_6498 - Implications of Alcohol Sales on Sensitive Uses and Entertainment Districts and Information on Appeals and Regulations (Item 6.3).
As part of these reports, City staff proposed draft amendments that would:
- Introduce a liquor store opportunity area within the Downtown core that to exempt new liquor stores from the 500 metre separation distance;
- Consolidate the Major and Minor Alcohol Sales uses into one new use, Liquor Stores;
- Reduce the parking requirements for liquor stores to align with general retail stores; and
- Design regulations to improve the appearance and safety of liquor stores.
In response the report and presentation, Council directed City staff to:
- As a part of the zoning bylaw renewal, conduct an analysis of regulating concentration of liquor stores, in a comprehensive approach based on land use impact.
- Prepare amendments to Zoning Bylaw 12800, as generally outlined in Attachment 2 of the March 5, 2019, Urban Form and Corporate Strategic Development report CR_6497, except for the liquor store opportunity area, and return to a future City Council Public Hearing.
A report and proposed amendments are tentatively scheduled to be presented back to City Council at the Monday June 17, 2019, Public Hearing meeting.