BC Liquor Distribution Branch celebrates its 95th anniversary


VANCOUVER—The year was 1921: B.C.'s population was a modest 525,000, prohibition against alcohol was over, and the very first nine government liquor stores opened their doors on June 15.


In the 95 years since, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) and BC Liquor Stores — one of the province's oldest retail businesses — have evolved with the times, continually re-inventing themselves to serve the needs of modern customers through the decades.

Gone are the days of darkened store front windows and the need for a permit just to buy a bottle from a man in a suit behind the counter — today's 198 BC Liquor Stores are bright, browsable spaces that boast a 52% female workforce and offer exceptional customer service and selection.

Unlike customers of yore, modern shoppers delight in the extraordinary convenience and choice BC Liquor Stores now offer: product selection has soared from just 80 products in 1921 to more than 5,200 products from 60 countries on store shelves today. Whether a customer is searching for a locally-brewed craft beer or a coveted Bordeaux wine, they can find it in their local BC Liquor Store.

To help mark this special milestone anniversary and celebrate nearly a century of providing the best in beverage alcohol to British Columbians, throughout the summer, BC Liquor Stores customers will see special 95th anniversary promotions and events at stores throughout the province. Customers are advised to check www.bcliquorstores.com to stay abreast of the latest anniversary offers and celebrations.

Blain Lawson, general manager and CEO, BC Liquor Distribution Branch —
"Although the BC Liquor Distribution Branch and BC Liquor Stores have come a long way over the past 95 years, I'm proud to say we aren't done evolving. We're constantly looking for new ways to meet the needs of our modern customers — whether they purchase products through our wholesale channel or walk into our retail stores. A heartfelt thank you to every one of our customers and employees across the province who have supported our business over 95 years — you are the foundation of our every success."

Quick Facts:

  • In 1921, customers had to buy an "annual permit" for $5 to buy alcohol, and their purchases were recorded on the back during each visit. In its first year of operation, the purchases were recorded on the back during each visit. In its first year of operation, the sale of permits generated $331,115.50 in revenue for the LDB — a whopping $4,164,913.59 in today's dollars!
  • The first liquor store windows were painted dark green so passers-by couldn't see liquor from the street. Inside stores, alcohol sales remained behind a counter until 1962, when the first "self-service" store opened at Burnaby's Brentwood Mall.
  • During World War II, shortages and long line-ups were the norm. "Rationing" was instituted, with each citizen limited to "not more than 40 ounces (1.14L) of spirits per week, one gallon (3.78L) of wine per week, and 24 pints (13.6L) of beer" — not exactly a small amount!
  • Back in the day, bottles came in standard sizes: customers had their choice of casks, jars, imperial quarts and pint bottles. Today, choice is king and beverage alcohol comes in a variety of containers, from tetra packs and single-serve cans to mini-kegs and "Texas Mickeys."
  • In the early days, B.C.'s sheer size required some unique distribution methods. At the Pouce Coupe store in northern B.C., the board's supervisor of stores would personally accompany the alcohol by train from Edmonton to Grand Prairie, Alberta. From there, shipments were hauled by horse and cart the remaining 145 kilometres to Pouce Coupe, accompanied by the Alberta Provincial Police until they reached the provincial border.
  • It's hard to imagine in today's "Age of Plastic," but BC Liquor Stores didn't begin accepting debit cards until 1995, and credit cards weren't accepted until 1999.
  • In 1921, only 18 women worked for the 251-strong Liquor Control Board  — a far cry from the 2,119 women who work for the LDB today.


Media Contact:

Viola Kaminski

BC Liquor Distribution Branch

604 252-3029