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Loblaws fined $7K after Surrey, B.C., store sells wine to a minor

Back in September, B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch inspectors observed a Real Canadian Superstore employee sell wine to a minor without asking for identification. (Google Maps - image credit)
Back in September, B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch inspectors observed a Real Canadian Superstore employee sell wine to a minor without asking for identification. (Google Maps - image credit)

Loblaws has been fined $7,000 by the British Columbia Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) after an employee at a Real Canadian Superstore in Surrey, B.C., sold liquor to a minor.

The fine was ordered earlier this month following a hearing that found the store's "training of its employees who sell liquor products and the systems to prevent sales to minors to be inadequate."

Along with the fine, a sign explaining the monetary penalty must also be placed in a prominent location in the store, according to the decision.

On Sept. 14, 2023, two LCRB inspectors arrived at the South Surrey Superstore to test whether liquor laws were being properly followed.

The LCRB hired a 16-year-old — known as a minor agent — who was tasked with purchasing alcohol while inspectors watched.

No ID requested

The Superstore location is licensed to sell wine, cider, mead and sake.

The minor, according to the decision, walked to the aisle where the wine was stocked, selected a bottle and took it to the checkout area where he was directed to a till.

He then presented the bottle to the cashier who scanned the bottle, and then the agent paid for it in cash and left the store.

Man is buying a bottle of wine at the supermarket. ; Shutterstock ID 491848462; Cost Ctr: redownload; Manager: redownload; Email: redownload; Project: redownload
Man is buying a bottle of wine at the supermarket. ; Shutterstock ID 491848462; Cost Ctr: redownload; Manager: redownload; Email: redownload; Project: redownload

The Real Canadian Superstore in Surrey is allowed to stock wine, cider, mead and sake. (Kar Tr/Shutterstock)

"At no time did the cashier ask the minor agent for identification," said the decision.

"If asked for identification, minor agents are trained not to attempt to deceive the salesperson but to simply respond that they do not have any identification."

One of the inspectors then advised the manager of the alleged contravention.

Loblaws claims due diligence

During the hearing, Loblaws admitted the employee sold liquor to the minor but argued it exercised due diligence.

It said all staff who are permitted to sell alcohol have Serving It Right (SIR) certification, a self-study program required for people who serve alcohol in B.C.

Employees are also required to sign the company's age-restricted sales policy and store liquor sales policy, which both discuss employee expectations about requesting identification.

Superstore tills also have an automatic prompt for liquor sales to check someone's age. However, it can be overridden by hitting the "enter" key.

Aerial (drone) Images of Loblaw Companyheadquarters in early. Shot March 4, 2024
Aerial (drone) Images of Loblaw Companyheadquarters in early. Shot March 4, 2024

Loblaws operates numerous chains in B.C., like the Real Canadian Superstore and Your Independent Grocer. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

The LCRB argued that Loblaws' defence of due diligence didn't meet the required standard — and LCRB General Manager's Delegate Dianne Flood agreed.

In her decision, she said that selling liquor requires an added layer of responsibility.

"The sale of liquor is not the same as the sale of milk or bread," she wrote.

"This added responsibility reflects the significant impacts these [liquor] sales can have both on the person attempting to purchase the liquor (or for whom it is being purchased) and on the broader community."

The Real Canadian Superstore on Grandview Highway in Vancouver on Thursday, April 16, 2020.
The Real Canadian Superstore on Grandview Highway in Vancouver on Thursday, April 16, 2020.

The Real Canadian Superstore on Grandview Highway in Vancouver is pictured in April 2020. Loblaws argued that they had exercised due diligence, but admitted that one of their employees had sold alcohol to a minor. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Flood said the SIR program and requiring employees to read and sign liquor store policies are good first steps, but they don't go far enough.

She wrote that cashiers trained to sell liquor should also be given oral quizzes or written tests, hands-on training about when and how to ask for identification, and opportunities for direct supervision and shadowing, among other recommendations.

"Despite the licensee having good intentions, I have identified a number of areas where I find the licensee's training and systems in relation to prohibiting the sale of liquor to minors are inadequate," said Flood.

According to a review of past LCRB decisions, Loblaws is the first B.C. supermarket to be fined for serving alcohol to a minor since the province permitted beer, spirits and wine to be sold in local grocery stores through separate cashiers in 2015.

Loblaws has until April 12 to pay the $7,000 fine. The company did not respond to a request for comment from CBC News.