According to a new survey released by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, 3.7 million litres of liquor was sold during the 2011-12 fiscal year from BC Liquor Stores in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. This equates to an average of $967 spent annually on alcohol per person.
In comparison, the branch’s numbers show Metro Vancouverites spending an average of $315 on alcohol per person over the course of a year and the provincial average sitting at $330 per person.
“Aprés is a huge part of the Whistler lifestyle, as well as going out to sports games and other events. Those things typically do involve drinking,” said Ellen Geber, manager on duty at La Bocca restaurant. “Most people on vacation here are also spending a large portion of their money on dining out and drinking out, which I’m sure bumps up the survey results in this region.” ??
Despite the compelling numbers, it may be too soon to peg Sea to Sky dwellers as heavy drinkers. The data is misleading as the numbers only take into account sales from government owned B.C. Liquor Stores, which account for 41 per cent of all liquor sold in the province. The data also doesn’t split up alcohol sales between tourists and locals.??
“The figures don’t take into account the number of tourists who visit the resort each year,” acknowledged Vince Cournoyer Manager of Communications for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch. “As a result, the per capita beverage alcohol sales figures appear to be higher as they do not take temporary population figures into account.”
Whistler Coun. John Grills agrees the results do not accurately represent the region, pointing out that the average daily population in Whistler is just over 20,000 people. During busy weekends Coun. Grills said Whistler’s population can rise to over 40,000 people, skewing the per-capita average.
“Whistler is a very healthy and active community, so I don’t think the statistics necessarily represent the community fairly. However, drinking does happen here and I think it’s important that licensed operators continue to do a good job of creating a safe environment for everyone to enjoy themselves,” said Grills. “There are a lot of opportunities to have a drink in this town and the tax revenue generated from the sale of alcohol is huge.”
Tourism and high alcohol consumption are two things local RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair plans for. He said the detachment schedules shifts accordingly, focusing on weekends and evenings.
“For us there are two parts, you’ve got people that are driving while intoxicated and intoxicated people in the Village that get themselves in trouble by their level of intoxication,” he said, adding various alcohol related incidents have occurred in thepast from people falling off bridges or overpasses, being hit by vehicles and passing out and succumbing to hypothermia.
LeClair added there is also zero tolerance in Whistler when it comes to open alcohol in public.
“I feel we have to keep a handle on it because if we don’t it will truly get a way from us,” he said.
The survey also found that British Columbians guzzle 37 litres of alcohol per year, per capita. Beer is still the most popular beverage of choice, making up 23 litres of annual consumption. In a distant second is wine with 9 litres and spirits round out the rest.
“I think we are pretty much on par in terms of alcohol sales compared to this same time last year. However, this year we have seen a lot more families which are driving up our sales of wine, as opposed to cocktails and martinis,” said Geber.
Geber’s account is on par with provincial and regional numbers as last year saw an increase in the amount of wine sold and a decline in beer sales. More wine is sold in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District than traditional wine locales such as the Okanagan.
For more survey results visit the Data BC website, www.data.gov.bc.ca.