Travellers on the 20 kilometre stretch of TransCanada Highway between Sackville and Amherst will soon have a fourth store where they can buy liquor, wine and beer making it easier and more convenient for drinkers who own cars while imposing significant, long-term costs on provincial taxpayers.
The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) has announced that it’s moving its downtown Amherst outlet on LaPlanche Street to the Esso station beside the TransCanada sometime before the end of the year.
Beverley Ware, who speaks for the NSLC, says the Esso’s proximity to the highway was one factor in the decision to move the store.
“Other factors include ease for customer and delivery vehicles to enter and exit the site, ease of use of loading and unloading facilities, prominence of the proposed site within the community and visibility of the potential store from the street,” she added in an e-mail to Warktimes.
A drive along the TransCanada yesterday starting at highway exit 504, where NB Liquor operates its Sackville store, showed that soon alcohol will be within even easier reach for the thirsty traveller — only eight kilometres to the exit for Irving’s Aulac liquor store, another eight to the exit for the Esso station and about three more to the Amherst exit that leads to the Superstore NSLC on South Albion Street, which is less than two kilometres from the highway.
The Superstore NSLC will soon be selling cannabis and upscale wines as an added inducement for weary travellers to come in off the highway for a purchase.
Ware says the NSLC store at the Amherst Esso will operate as an “Express Store” designed for customer convenience.
“Generally, customers know what they want and are popping in to pick it up,” she says. “These stores offer a limited selection of our top-selling 300 brands and complement our nearby, full-size stores. The store will be in the same building as Esso but as a separate store with its own entrance.”
Ware writes that the old downtown liquor store would require extensive investment to bring it up to the NSLC’s current standards and spending the money did not make sound economic sense.
“It is more fiscally responsible to seek a new location and the Esso location best matched our criteria,” she says adding that there were no suitable downtown locations brought forward when the NSLC put out its request for proposals.
Amherst Mayor David Kogon supports the NSLC decision to leave the downtown pointing out that the old building needs too much work and the NSLC expects to increase sales at the Esso station.
“As Mayor I had two concerns, jobs one and tax base two,” he writes in an e-mail. “There will be no loss of jobs and at least one new position. The new site is actually on Town land and so there will be no loss of tax revenue.”
Kogon says there have been a number of new businesses and business expansions in downtown Amherst lately, so the NSLC move shouldn’t have much of an economic impact.
“The downtown needs to stay busy and vibrant and I would like to think this shift in location will not have a real negative impact on the downtown,” he writes adding that the benefits of the NSLC move appear to outweigh the negatives even though the few local people who walk to the downtown store will suffer “some inconvenience.”
Amherst Councillor Jason Blanch says he thinks it’s sad that the liquor store is moving.
“Years ago my grandfather was the manager of that store,” he writes in an e-mail. “Strange when you think about it through an accessibility lens. Probably a simple decision when seen through an economic lens,” he adds.
“As for Amherst’s downtown, it will have some impact for sure, the employees at least will no longer be close to the restaurants and coffee shops,” Blanch writes. “I am unable to guess how much impact, but I wouldn’t suspect it to be great. I think the greatest impact will be on the non-car owning consumer, who can no longer walk or bike to pick up a bottle of wine for their special meal in 5 to 10 minutes.”
Social and health costs
The increasing emphasis on making liquor stores more convenient and accessible to the travelling public in order to boost sales and revenues is harder to understand in light of government figures.
In 2013, CBC News obtained an internal government report showing that in Nova Scotia, the social and health costs of alcohol consumption are more than double what the government receives in revenues from sales. (see chart)
Official figures in New Bruswick from 2002 show a similar result:
“In New Brunswick, the estimated cost associated with alcohol misuse in 2002, including expenses for health care, law enforcement and social costs, was $597 per capita. This yields an overall cost of about $448 million…In 2012-13, NB Liquor reported a net income of $164 million from liquor sales.”
And, experts have long agreed making alcohol easier to get is one main factor in boosting social and health costs.
In the end, taxpayers will likely pay a hefty bill for those convenient, TransCanada liquor stores.