Learn about minimum distances between alcohol stores and other places

Density of alcohol outlets in cities

Issue
Regulate commercial and public availability of alcohola,1,2,3,4

Action
Limit density of on- and off-premises alcohol outletsb,1,3,4

Degree of adoption in 31 Canadian municipalities
Low

Current actions in Canada
A few examples exist at the municipal level in Canada where municipalities have limited density of alcohol outlets using zoning and, or land use bylaws:

  • Surrey’s Locational Guideline requires that private liquor stores be located 400 m from children’s facilities (For example, schools, parks and playgrounds) as well as public libraries and recreation centres. It also requires private liquor stores not be located within 1 km of another private liquor store.
  • Edmonton’s Zoning Bylaw requires a minimum separation distance of 500 m between alcohol outlets. In addition, bylaw prohibits alcohol outlets less than 100 m from any site being used for community or recreation activities (For example, community league buildings and facilities, and children’s playgrounds and play areas), public or private education or public lands.
  • Fredericton’s Zoning Bylaw does not permit alcohol outlets within 300 m of a place of worship, school or in a building also used for residential purposes, with some exceptions.
  • Calgary’s Land Use Bylaw does not permit liquor stores within 300 m of any other liquor stores, nor can they be located within 150 m of a school.
  • Vancouver’s Liquor Store Guidelines indicate that no liquor store should be located within 150 m of a church, park, elementary or secondary school, community centre or neighbourhood house.

In addition, Vancouver and Victoria use Business License Bylaws to require alcohol retailers to conduct public consultation on impact and assess density in their applications.

Local policy poolsc,d

  • Land use and zoning bylaws
  • Business license bylaws
  • Fees bylaws

Examples of local actionc,d
Municipalities can strengthen zoning, land use or other by-laws to prohibit businesses that sell alcohol in a certain area.

Municipalities can also strengthen these bylaws to set limits on the number of licensed establishments allowed in a certain geographic area.

Municipalities can use licensing to require health impact assessments for every alcohol license application. Municipalities can evaluate these and contest those that could adversely impact a neighbourhood.

Municipalities can discourage introduction or expansion of U-Brew and U-Vin industries. Where they exist, licensing can be made contingent upon matching socially referenced prices for beverage alcohol in that jurisdiction.

Density of on- and off-premises alcohol outlets in provinces and territories

Issue
Regulate commercial and public availability of alcohola,1,2,3,4

Action
Limit density of on- and off-premises alcohol outletsb,1,3,4

Degree of adoption in Canada
Low

Current actions in Canada
Adoption of evidence-informed policy action related to limiting alcohol outlet density across Canada is low. Locations of retail and licensed premises for the sale and service of alcohol must be approved by alcohol-control governing bodies, but clear and defined outlet density requirements across provinces and territories is lacking. Bring Your Own alcohol and re-corking policies, as well as off-sales of alcohol in licensed establishments increases alcohol-outlet density, providing additional access.

A few provinces like Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, outline location requirements within legislation, but they only apply to some types of alcohol outlets, for example:

  • Prince Edward Island requires new agency store locations to have a large enough population base, and the absence of an existing store. It also prohibits agencies from being operated on the premises of a motel, hotel, licensed establishment or restaurant, or in areas where minors tend to congregate.
  • British Columbia allows that a holder of a license to sell and serve liquor may attain an off-premise sales endorsement, where patrons can purchase bottled alcohol, if the premises is at least 30m km from a liquor store, licensee retail store or is a brewpub.
  • Nova Scotia requires ferment-on-premises locations be kept separate from other premises used for different purposes.

Most provinces and territories also require citizen input or support for the establishment of new alcohol retail outlets, which may impact outlet density where citizen support is lacking.

In Nunavut and Northwest Territories, communities participate in a plebiscite to choose their preferred alcohol system – unrestricted, restricted (limited quantities to purchase), committee (an elected alcohol-education committee decides who may purchase, consume and transport liquor etc.), and prohibition. As a result, many communities in the territories have no alcohol retail outlets present, and those that do exist are dispersed, limiting access to alcohol.

All provinces and territories except Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut, allow patrons to bring their own wine (and in some cases beer) to a licensed establishment to consume on the premises and, or take home the remainder of unconsumed wine bought at the establishment. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon also permit off-sales in certain licensed establishments, where patrons can purchase unopened bottles of alcohol for off-premise consumption.

New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario and British Columbia allow for the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, with varied restrictions, and Québec allows for the sale of alcohol in convenience stores.

Nova Scotia, Québec (except beer), Ontario and Alberta allow for the sale of liquor online, providing home delivery and in-store pickup options. Newfoundland and Labrador allow for the purchase of fine wine online with in-store pickup options.